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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, June 3, 2010

Lynnwood Elementary honored for teaching the whole child

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Lynnwood Elementary is one of four schools in New York State being honored for teaching the whole child.

“It’s almost like The Wizard of Oz,” said Lynnwood’s principal, James Dillon, referring to the scene where the Scarecrow gets a diploma as an outward recognition of the brains he had all along.

“We’ve educated the whole child for years. It’s no surprise,” said Dillon yesterday. “But it’s nice to get some recognition…We give kids a lot of different ways to succeed. It is nice to get external validation.”

This is the first year that the New York State Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development has given the  Educating the Whole Child for the 21st Century Award.

Anthony Mellow, the executive director of NYSASCD, told The Enterprise yesterday, “Our board decided to be advocates for the whole child approach by selecting individual schools as models.” The practices used by the selected schools will be posted on the NYSASCD website, he said, and written about in its journals and newsletters.

Mellow described the not-for-profit international ASCD as the largest educational group in the world with 180,000 members in 80 countries around the world.

“ASCD is very much in favor offaccountability,” he said. “But we object to one test for determining a child’s success.”

The ASCD whole-child initiative is meant to encourage communities to work with their schools to see that each student is challenged in a healthy and supportive environment.

The national group, Mellow said, is not aligned with any unions, but pushes for legislation that will benefit the whole child.

He summed up the whole child movement this way, “If a child doesn’t feel safe, he won’t learn. He must feel both physically safe and intellectually safe. You have to feel free in order to learn.”

Dillon read about the award — which is billed as a celebration rather than a competition — in an ASCD journal and decided Lynnwood should apply. An application was filled out showing how Lynnwood met each of these criteria:

— Clearly articulated goals for all five whole-child tenets — healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged;

—Relationship of the whole-child emphasis to the school’s stated vision or mission;

—Evaluation data as to measure of success of whole-child tenets;

—Evidence to the degree which whole child tenets are being implemented; and

— Degree of collaboration with stakeholders in promoting the focus of whole-child tenets.

After the application was submitted, a team of evaluators visited Lynnwood. They observed a student newscast, talked to parents, visited Lynnwood’s outdoor fitness trail, and ate in the school’s cafeteria.

“It’s funny, they said they just enjoyed themselves here,” said Dillon of the evaluators’ daylong visit.

Mellow said that 21 schools sent in applications and a dozen completed the process. “A committee of educators rated the applications on a rubric,” he said and then visited the finalists.

Many of the schools that were too late for the first year are interested in applying for next year, he said. Public, parochial, charter, and independent schools are all eligible to apply for the award.

The three schools selected for the award, besides Lynnwood are described by Mellow this way: Port Jervis Middle School, in a small city near the Pennsylvania border, the Pine Grove Middle School in the Minoa School District in East Syracuse, and the Lima Primary School in western New York near Rochester.

The award will be formally presented to Lynnwood Elementary School at the June 8 meeting of the Guilderland School board.  The school will receive a professional library of 15 books, a banner, and a plaque.

The award will cap Dillon’s career in education. He is retiring after being Lynnwood’s principal for 17 years.

He credits the entire school community — teachers, staff, parents, and the students themselves for Lynnwood’s success.

“People need to see it’s important to look beyond test scores,” he concluded. “You want people to develop a love of school and lifelong learning.”

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