Dear Centennial Families,
As you enjoy this wonderful holiday season, please accept my own wishes for peace, joy, and happiness to you and yours.
My mother asked this year for the same thing she always does – World Peace. It’s all she wants, she always says, as though nothing less will quite suffice. She asks for it as if it’s something I could just one-click online or pop down to the corner shop and buy. I suppose it’s the kind of gift a mother can demand, especially one who carries “Peace” as her middle name and has now gifted it to her granddaughter, Anna Paz.
It’s been almost five months since Anna joined us. She’s cooing, and chuckling, and laughing – she’s studying her hands with great curiosity – and loves to dance, and sing, and listen to books. It’s hard to remember what life was like before her. Anna has reminded me what really matters in this world. And she has brought so much Light, so much love, and yes, so much peace, that my mother may finally have gotten her wish in the form of a perfect little human.
I hope you will take time over the winter break to partake in those things that please and replenish you. Enjoy your children – your own little perfect humans. Hold your loved ones tight and, amidst the bustle, happy chaos, and excitement of the holiday break, give a quiet thought or prayer of thanks to their presence in your life. I know I am grateful each day, all year long, for the honor of working in service of our children and you, their families. I have the best job in the entire world.
From my family to yours, I hope that the holiday season brings joy, fellowship, laughter, rest, rejuvenation, and, yes, peace, to a world that needs it more than ever. May all that is good be yours in 2013.
Dear Centennial School District Community,
Our sincerest condolences go out to the victims, families, and school personnel affected by the heart-breaking tragedy this morning, December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut.
Details are still unfolding, and we won’t know for some time exactly what happened. I want to assure you, however, that the Centennial School District will continue to enforce security measures and continue to re-evaluate our security (as we do on a regular basis), in concert with our law enforcement partners, to make sure we are doing all that is reasonably possible to keep our children safe.
We want to inform our community about security measures we have taken today, not in response to any threat here, but to reassure our students, staff members, and families. Centennial School District Administration and Staff have increased patrols at all schools and have been checking to make sure all schools are adhering to all established safety protocols. Again, these measures are to ensure that safety procedures are being followed. There have not been any threats at any of our facilities.
The National Mental Health Association has a number of suggestions for how to talk to children about something so tragic, and these suggestions are listed at the end of this communication. It is important to gently reassure children that the adults in their lives are doing everything they can to make their environment—school, home, and neighborhood—safe for them. And we want to reassure you that we are doing that in Centennial School District.
Our counselors will be on hand in each of our schools next week, and we encourage any students, staff or parents who would like to talk to someone to please reach out to our schools for help. As an educator, while these events have happened at a distance, I know it touches the hearts of our entire community. We join with all educators, parents, and Americans who are devastated by this senseless tragedy and are mourning the loss of so many young lives.
Dr. Jennifer Cressman
Superintendent of Schools
Suggestions from the National Mental Health Association for helping a child cope with news of a school shooting (As a parent you will need to determine which guidelines are appropriate for your child and his or her age/development level.):
• Validate the child’s feelings. Do not minimize a child’s concerns. Let him/her know that serious school violence is not common, which is why these incidents attract so much media attention. Stress that schools are safe places. In fact, recent studies have shown that schools are more secure now than ever before.
• Empower children to take action regarding school safety. Encourage them to report specific incidents (such as bullying, threats or talk of suicide) and to develop problem solving and conflict resolution skills. Encourage older children to actively participate in student-run anti-violence programs.
• Discuss the safety procedures that are in place at your child’s school. Explain why visitors sign in at the principal’s office or certain doors remain locked during the school day. Help your child understand that such precautions are in place to ensure his or her safety and stress the importance of adhering to school rules and policies.
• Create safety plans with your child. Help identify which adults (a friendly secretary, trusted teacher or approachable administrator) your child can talk to if they feel threatened at school. Also ensure that your child knows how to reach you (or another family member or friend) in case of crisis during the school day. Remind your child that they can talk to you anytime they feel threatened.
• Recognize behavior that may indicate your child is concerned about returning to school. Younger children may react to school violence by not wanting to attend school or participate in school-based activities. Teens and adolescents may minimize their concerns.
Resources For Helping Children Cope with Tragedy
As you are aware, we experienced an exceptional and most unexpected weather event in Hurricane Sandy. The hurricane resulted in four days of District closure and one additional day for the closure of Klinger Middle School after an electrical emergency occurred.
If we were to follow the established calendar, making up these days would take us to June 26, 2013. Recognizing that we have not yet entered the winter weather season and are likely to experience additional delays and closures, the decision was made to extract days out of the scheduled spring break. The decision was made now to give families and employees as much advance notice as possible.
At the December 11 meeting of our Board of Directors, the following resolutions were approved:
Approves the alteration of the 2012-2013 Centennial School Calendar to declare the following dates as regular school days to accommodate the four instructional days lost to the hurricane: Monday, March 25; Wednesday, March 27; Thursday, March 28; and Monday, April 1. The District will be closed on Tuesday, March 26, in observance of Passover and Friday, March 29, in observance of Good Friday. Administration will ensure that the Child Nutrition Department provides options to accommodate dietary observances and will provide clear direction regarding assignment of homework, projects, and assessments. The teacher In-Lieu-of-Day, to have been held on Monday, March 25, will be rescheduled to the end of the 2012-2013 school year.
Approves an exception toCSD Policy, 3.24, Family Trips Scheduled During School Year to permit parents/guardians to omit the statement of educational benefit from the required request for approval of student absence for family trips during the previously scheduled spring break, which was to have been observed March 25 – April 1, 2013. Dates requested for this four-day time period will be considered lawful absences in addition to the three days permitted in policy; however, the requested days would still count toward the ten cumulative days of permissible lawful absence outlined inCSD Policy, 3.26, Student Attendance. Absence requests for family trips scheduled for March 25-April 1 that comply with the other requirements of Policy 3.24 will be considered lawful absences. Documentation that the trip was planned prior to December 12, 2012, must be provided at the time of submission of the trip request to the building principal.(Family Trip Request Form)
I understand that many of you may be disappointed at the loss of the anticipated holiday – as we have never had a week-long spring break built into our calendar, I know we all would have enjoyed the time to rest and rejuvenate with family and friends. I’m sure we can all agree that the imposed Hurricane Sandy “autumn break” was anything but relaxing! Keeping children warm, dry, nourished, clean, safe, and entertained without power for a week was certainly an extraordinary challenge for our families.
We do sincerely appreciate your patience and understanding as we make this necessary alteration to the school calendar. Should you have questions about the trip application process, please contact your building principal.
I’d like to start today by sharing a love story with you. May I introduce Anna Paz, daughter of my brother and sister-in-law, who arrived on August 18. She is just a little more than a week old. When I am asked whether I have children of my own, a special child in my life, I often answer, “Yes, about 5,800.” But now I can say, “Yes, I have a niece. Her name is Anna. Her middle name is ‘Paz’, which is ‘Peace’ in Spanish. She takes her middle name from my mother, whose middle name is ‘Peace’, who was born on August 8, 1945, between the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when many prayed for hope and peace in a world exhausted from a war that felt as though it would never end. Anna has taken her own twist on that name, made it her own, in a world that still yearns for peace. And like my mother, she is already a force of nature. A Leo in her own right. Who has the lungs of an opera singer, who hiccups like a champ, who sighs irresistibly in her sleep as her little mouth dreams of nursing. Do I have a special child in my life? Yes, I have Anna Paz.” I’ll come back to Anna in a moment.
Everything we do in Centennial is intended to ultimately make this District a better place for children, a better place in which to teach and learn and work. We serve thousands of children, but it’s important to remember that each one of them is as precious to someone, as your own children in your life are to you, as Anna is to me. I’d like to take this opportunity to give you a brief overview of the important work before us this year. Guided by the District goals and Comprehensive Plan that we are developing, our foci will be as follows: Student Achievement, Community engagement and Communication, Technology, Policies and Administrative Regulations, and Construction.
In terms of Student Achievement, we are looking carefully at the teacher supervision and evaluation process and how we can help and support our extraordinary faculty in becoming even better educators of our students. Improved community engagement and communication with all stakeholders makes us all better advocates for children. Looking carefully at the ways technology touches every aspect of our work and how we can use it to make that work easier and more interesting for students is an exciting challenge. Establishing clear policies and administrative regulations give us common rules by which to work and play in the company of our youngsters. And bringing our four construction projects to a successful conclusion will be the end of a five year project that will make each of our buildings safe, energy efficient, comfortable, and inviting. Each of these goals will help us enter a new era of peace and stability in the District and allow us to get back to what we do best, teaching children.
Before we know it, Anna will enter school, because children grow before our very eyes, children grow despite us and our desire to keep them little. I think about what I would want for Anna when she goes to school – adults to love and instruct her, to keep her safe from harm. Adults who will allow her to blossom and unfold in her own way and in her own time, who will not set limits on her, but who will see only infinite possibilities and help her see the way through to realizing them.
What will my Anna do? Will she discover a cure for cancer? Will she discover a type of limitless, renewable energy that leaves no toxic residue? Will she travel the stars, discovering new worlds that are beyond our imagining? Will she become a healer like her doctor mother or a scientist like her physicist father? Or will she become, like her grandparents and aunt before her a member of the noblest of professions, a teacher? Only time will tell.
But I hope, what I would wish for her, what I wish for all of my almost six thousand children, what I would want for the special children in your lives, is to be surrounded by adults like you. This year we will safely transport thousands of children back and forth each day to school, each one as precious as my Anna. This year we will nourish thousands of bellies with warm, nutritious food, some of our children receiving the bulk of their nutrition from their time with us – each child as precious as your children. We will monitor the health, progress, and well being of thousands of children, each child as precious as my Anna. This year we will educate and inspire thousands of children, each child as precious as your children.
Each parent entrusts us every day with his or her beloved child. You will remember that when they make you laugh, when they soak up everything you offer and clamor for more, when they amaze you on the athletic field, when they take your breath away with their artistic creations or the music they make. But you must also remember it, especially remember that, when they frustrate you to tears, when they test every boundary, and when they challenge your thinking. We are in the business each and every day of crafting human beings. No matter what you do as an employee of this District, you work in the service of our children. It is my hope, that you will always remember that the young human being in front of you is someone’s most beloved child and best contribution to the world. Please, treat that child with the care, dignity, and respect you would your own.
As you disperse today and begin the year’s work, please reflect at the end of the day at the difference you made in the life of even one of the children in your care. If you can say at the end of the day, “Yes, today, I made a difference in the life of one child” then it has been a good day. Again, I wish you the joy of the new school year. May it be our best one yet.
This morning, which broke cool and bright, reminded me of so many of my own first days of school. For me, the fragrance of September will always be the heady mixture of two favorite scents: the sharp, clean scent of wood and graphite of the freshly sharpened pencils carefully placed in a new plastic pencil box, and the scent of newly mown hay, full of sunshine, being gathered in for fodder for the neighbor’s dairy cows, to nourish them with July’s energy through the winter just around the corner. I thought of how, as a child, I would lie awake at night in the last days of August bursting with anticipation – looking forward to the return of school, of a new teacher, of new friends, of new knowledge. This year, the back-to-school advertisements began soon after the fourth of July. I could just about hear the dismayed groans of children (and their teachers) as the summer that had just begun was put on notice.
On the way to school today, I thought about how each of the adults that care for our students is starting to prepare – heart, mind, soul– for the return of our children. Our buses have been inspected, our kitchens are being stocked, supplies are being inventoried, and classrooms are being carefully readied. But for our children, there are still eleven precious (school) days before they return to us on September 4. It reminded me of a favorite poem by Russell Hoban that captures these incredibly sweet last days of freedom as school buses lie in wait.
You’d think that by the end of June they’d take themselves
Away, get out of sight – but no, they don’t; they
Don’t at all. You see them waiting through
July in clumps of sumac near the railroad, or
Behind a service station, watching, always watching for a
Child who’s let go of summer’s hand and strayed. I have
Seen them hunting on the roads of August – empty buses
Scanning woods and ponds with rows of empty eyes. This morning
I saw five of them, parked like a week of
Schooldays, smiling slow in orange paint and
Smirking with their mirrors in the sun –
But summer isn’t done! Not yet!
~ Russell Hoban
Enjoy this time with your children before they return to us. We can’t wait to see them!
Today, as your Superintendent of Schools, I have the honor to address you, our Class of 2012, your parents, families, teachers, administrators, and Board of School Directors.
Seniors, no, make that, Rising Adults - Today is your day to celebrate all you have accomplished. Congratulations. I wish you the joy of your new status in the world. You have earned it.
As the Chief Educator in Centennial, it is my honor to impart one last life lesson to you before you leave us. There are so many things I’d like to tell you, but that would take a lifetime, and I only have a few moments. I collect quotations, and as I was thinking about my speech I recalled one of my favorite by Eleanor Roosevelt, who is one of my heroes. In addition to being the wife of one of our finest presidents, she was brilliant, accomplished, and truly humorous in her own right. I hope that you will someday come to know her through her writing.
One of my favorite pieces of wisdom that Eleanor, (and yes, she and I are on a first name basis, we are old friends), had to impart is the following quotation: “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
For the first seventeen to eighteen years of your existence, others guided you – your parents, older siblings, teachers, religious teachers. All of those people will continue to matter to you and will be here to support and love you. But it is also time for you to move forward on your own, to learn to listen to that still, inner voice that will guide you. This is your life, your time, your energies, to spend as you choose to give them.
Every day, you have a choice to embrace with enthusiasm whatever the day brings your way. You can choose to walk the world with a cheerful spirit, speaking to the goodness in everyone you meet. It is your choice to savor all the world has to offer. Learn how to take in the huge accomplishments, like today, but also the small commonplace beauties: the scent of tea, a crisp apple, a child’s laugh, the color of the ocean, the touch of a loved one. Taste experience to the utmost.
Reach out eagerly, without fear. That doesn’t mean to live life recklessly. What I think she does mean is don’t place or allow others to place limits on you. Be bold. Be brave. Have courage. Live and love with absolute abandon. Life is too precious, too short, to not live the life you want for yourself. Live the kind of life that will allow you eighty years from now to look back and say, “I have no regrets. That was a life worth living. I would live every moment over again.”
And so today, your graduation day, take a deep breath. Look around. Take it in. Remember. Embrace your friends and family. Tell them “thank you” and that you love them. Eat a lot of cake. And beyond today? Live a life that will create a million memories. Class of 2012, you will go on to do mind-blowing, earth-shattering, brilliant things. I look forward to hearing from you, your family, and friends of all you accomplish.
I trust that you will carry the knowledge and love that have been poured into you over the past eighteen years and use it to transform the world. I wish you love, joy, peace, and the best of luck in everything you choose to pursue. You will be astonishing.
As of March 2013, we will have successfully completed the building projects embarked upon four years ago. Our new buildings are designed to be aesthetically pleasing, environmentally healthful and safe, technologically enhanced, and conducive to all of our best efforts devoted to teaching and learning for our students. This time next year, once our projects are completed, all of Centennial’s schools will provide superior learning environments for our children.
The purpose of this blog posting is to update you on the status of the three school buildings and campuses, which will soon be replaced by beautiful new facilities. Last Tuesday evening, April 10, 2012, the Board approved preliminary acceptance of bids for the sale of Longstreth, Leary, and Stackpole Elementary Schools; the vote for final acceptance of these bids will be before the Board on Monday evening, April 23, 2012.
As you know, the sale of these buildings is the next important step in the construction process. Funds raised from the sale of these three buildings, as well as the sale of the Dorothy Henry Satellite School property in Ivyland, will be transferred to the Capital Fund to cover future expenses such as new, partial roofs for Log College and Klinger Middle Schools. It is important to understand that the money raised from the sale of these buildings can only be deposited into the Capital Fund to cover future expenses related to our buildings or applied to the debt service related to the building projects. It cannot be used, for example, to underwrite staffing or purchase instructional materials.
Perhaps, the document via the hyperlink below might be helpful to you, should you find yourself in a position of fielding questions from other parents or community members regarding the sale of the buildings.
Many community members have expressed concern over the buildings being sold for “only” $425,000 per building. Some important facts to help them to understand:
· We all wish the properties had sold for more money; however, the bids essentially reflect what the current market will bear. For a variety of reasons, we cannot hold the properties in the event that the real estate market will recover, as we all certainly hope it does.
· Just to assure each empty building is secure, dry, insured, snow plowed, mown/landscaped would amount to more than $50,000 per building per year. In addition, it is never a good course of action to leave a building standing empty in a neighborhood.
· In view of the fact that the buildings are being sold “as is, where is”, the purchasing company is absorbing the $200,000 minimum cost per building of asbestos abatement and building demolition. This results in a cost savings of over $600,000 to the District.
· While some other bid offers were higher, the number of contingencies attached to them made those deals ultimately uncertain. Had the District accepted one of them, we would have run the risk of being a year out from now and having the company renege on the deal. County Builders’ offer of $1.275 million for the properties “as-is, where-is” is the highest responsible bid within the specification.
· There is pending state legislation that, should it pass, would permit charter schools to essentially requisition empty public school buildings for their use with NO financial compensation to the District or community. Razing the buildings and building new residential homes, as County Builders proposes to do, return these properties to the tax rolls for increased revenue to our local municipalities and the District.
Please also feel free to refer questions or concerns to Mr. Christopher Berdnik, our Chief Financial Officer, or me, for we would be happy to discuss them. If you think of anything that would be helpful to add to the Building Sale Frequently Asked Questions, please let us know.
As you can probably imagine, if anyone had told this twenty-year old first grade teacher two decades ago that she would spend so much time in a hardhat (albeit a pink one), on rooftops, learning about mechanical systems, and working with architects and contractors, she would have not believed it! While the work related to constructing our new facilities is an essential part of my current duties, my teacher-heart is eager for the time when I can, once again, spend more time with our children and teachers in our schools and classrooms. I am truly excited about and deeply grateful for the wonderful new learning environments our community has so generously provided for our children.
Jennifer E. Cressman, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Centennial School District
Centennial Administration Building
433 Centennial Road
Warminster, Pennsylvania 18974
OFFICE: (215) 441-6000, Extension 11002
CELL: (215) 416-1157