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Schalmont turns toward the future as teachers, staff return to work ahead of
2017-18 school year


A group of teachers and staff members are seated in the High school auditorium listening to presentations during Professional Development Days at SchalmontTeachers and staff members prepare for the 2017-18 school year at Schalmont during the district's Professional Development Days.

Superintendent Carol Pallas welcomed new and returning teachers and staff to a new school year during opening day on Tuesday, September 5.

In her opening day remarks, Superintendent Pallas turned her attention to the future, asking that teachers and staff focus on what lies ahead, and how they can best prepare their students for it.

"In my 30 years of education, I have never been more excited or so fearful for the future of education and the future of this world. It is this polarity of hope and fear that drives us to have to think differently," she said.

Superintendent Pallas said that we live in an extraordinary period of human history where we face population growth, environmental threats and political instability, and urged the staff to focus on preparing students for whatever lies ahead.

"As educators we are called to graduate students who are not daunted by the world's challenges and who are equipped to be effective in the world," said Pallas. "The promise of school is to provide students with terrific educational experiences and get them ready for college and careers as well as to send them out into the world with the capability and moral compass to make a difference that matters. To do that we have to move at a more rapid pace towards giving our students authentic experiences and practice in the real world to prepare them for complexity, adaptability and future challenges and jobs we don’t even know of yet."

A major focus for Superintendent Pallas this year is navigating change toward becoming a learning 21st century learning environment for today's students, while existing in yesterday’s factory-model school system.

"The real challenge is that we are still held to the things from the 'system of school' like getting kids to pass the Regents in preparation for college - because in many ways the colleges drive the bus - while trying to serve the needs of students in an ever-changing culture, society and economy," said Pallas.

A woman makes a presenation on the large screen in the high school auditorium on Professional Development days at SchalmontTeachers and staff members listen to presentations given during Schalmont's Professional Development Days.

That's why she wants to use the 2017-18 school year to focus on integrating new teaching techniques into lesson plans. She spoke to teachers and staff members about focusing on a new model of education that incorporates critical thinking and problem solving skills, collaboration, agility and adaptability with effective oral, written and multimedia communications. Pallas hopes that most of all, these new learning techniques will help spark a student's curiosity and imagination.

"We live in an innovation economy," said Pallas. "In this new world, there is no longer a competitive advantage in knowing more than the person next to you because knowledge has become a commodity available to all with the swipe of a finger. Now, adults need to be able to ask great questions, critically analyze information, form independent opinions, collaborate, and communicate effectively. These are the skills essential for both career and citizenship."

Superintendent Pallas looked to the year ahead and the challenges Schalmont educators will confront collectively, including:

• Improving state test results

• Tackling budget/financial needs that will become more and more difficult to meet and sustain

• Adapting for a declining enrollment and a changing demographic

• Continuing to integrate new and emerging technologies into teaching

A major focus for Schalmont over the last few years has been the use of new technologies to further a student's success in the classroom. "While this can be overwhelming to consider," said Pallas, "our aim has to be about how all of us can make the transition from the past to the contemporary with an eye on the future."

A great deal of the district's professional development days focused on these emerging technologies, and how they can be utilized to improve academic performance, increase participation and provide new learning opportunities for both students and teachers, such as using digital file sharing and music in the classrooms.

"As an educator, you are part of the chain of teaching stories that go way back, sharing traditional roles and routines in all roles; teacher, leader, student," said Pallas. "But now is a different time, and we are all learning in new ways, with new portals, new spaces, and new connection points to reach our students."