Districts share plans for new, innovative programming

With schools looking ahead to the most “normal” academic year since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked superintendents, “What new and innovative programs are being introduced within your district for the 2022-23 school year?” Here are responses from schools chiefs in Nassau County; the responses have been edited for length and clarity.


Baldwin Union Free School District

As part of Baldwin Union Free School District’s ongoing effort to provide students with real-life, hands-on professional experiences across various career paths, we are excited to launch a state-of-the-art recording studio, which will allow for work-based learning in the field of music and sound engineering to take place right within our school system. Featuring a control room equipped with a sound recording and mixing console, a music room, a drum booth, vocal booth and podcast technology, the stylized and inspirational space will mirror the recording studios used in today’s music industry by veteran artists, music producers and sound engineers. Our students will fully engage with the studio technology in countless ways, whether creating a podcast for a history class or recording a “poetry slam” for an English project.

New courses centered on the field of sound engineering will also be made available to coincide with the studio launch, including Podcast Production, Music & Arts Sound Engineering, and Voice-Over Production. Immersing our students into the world of work will ensure that Baldwin High School graduates are that much more prepared for their future profession.  


Bay Shore School District

The Bay Shore School District offers its students participation in a K-2 STEAM program, which was first implemented in the fall of 2021.

STEAM education, which incorporates science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics, allows students to learn about science and engineering principles while exploring their creativity with hands-on project-based experiences. Bay Shore teachers designed a curriculum to include lessons in topics like robotics and coding that incorporate visual arts. The program’s impact goes far beyond math, technology or art lessons; children enhance their critical thinking, problem-solving and collaboration skills. These are key qualities in today’s fast-paced, interconnected world. Developing these abilities ensures graduates from Bay Shore are ready for success in their postgraduate endeavors.

To further the goals of the program, each of the district’s K-2 buildings has a dedicated STEAM teacher who leads classes on a set weekly schedule, in the same way physical education, art and music are taught. This program has created new avenues for collaboration with our parent groups, which have donated materials for the STEAM classes.

By implementing a full K-2 STEAM curriculum, these skills are ingrained and cultivated in students from an early age. 


Central Islip School District

It is imperative that as educators, we implement high-quality, innovative programs that span the spectrum of the curricula. This sets the stage for us to provide students with opportunities to achieve their personal best for success and equips them with the tools they will need to compete in the 21st century’s ever-changing global society. A one-size-fits-all educational atmosphere is unrealistic and detrimental to the student’s ability to thrive. While some students will naturally graduate from high school and pursue degrees, others possess talents in trade professions where the demand to fill jobs is at an all-time high.

At Central Islip High School, new and innovative course components are being rolled out for students in September ranging from Advanced Placement college credit-bearing courses to technology-based automotive course offerings.

Complementing our academic menu is a new technology-based automotive program designed to introduce students to engines, maintenance repair, safety and tools of the trade, and the complex electronic wiring, charging and operational systems that make up the trade.

New to our academic offerings is an AP Spanish literature college-level course that focuses on prose and verse written in Spanish with students reading and writing the language. A new Pre-Advanced Placement English class prepares 10th-graders planning to enroll in AP Language & Composition, and AP Literature & Composition in 11th and 12th grades for the rigors of those courses.

We owe it to our students to present them with choices for career paths so they will succeed and produce contributions that make a difference.


Cold Spring Harbor School District

Following a review of student support needs and the district’s counseling/mental health services, Cold Spring Harbor has hired a student support counselor to be assigned to Cold Spring Harbor Junior/Senior High School. The role of this counselor will include attending to students’ academic, personal/social and college/post high school needs. Increased levels of student anxiety and its impact on student performance, decision making, management of tasks/expectations and success are the focus of student service interventions.

There is also a greater need to assist students in developing coping strategies, management tools and decision-making processes to address the causes and larger needs related to the manifestation of anxiety. These issues can be more successfully addressed by including the work of a school counselor who will be visiting classrooms and meeting with large and small groups of students in various classrooms or through small group sessions.

The junior and senior high schools each offer student support centers where students can take time for themselves while collaborating with peers, working, taking a break independently and/or interacting with support personnel. The centers, and the students using this space, are a top priority for the 2022-23 school year. The additional school counselor can assist with covering this room, planning purposeful group activities, guiding students with academic and personal issues, and leading students through workshops on developing personal skills. 


Commack School District

We are most excited about a unique new pathway for student success beginning in September — the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme. We are the first on Long Island to offer the program to all students. Two career pathways are being offered in Business Administration and STEM.

It’s no longer necessary for students to wait until after graduation to begin pursuing careers that interest them. The IBCP is designed for students in grades 11 and 12 interested in engaging in unique learning experiences relevant to their chosen field of study. The new program allows students to choose specific, high-level coursework geared to their interests in a future career pathway. Preparing students to enter the world of the 21st century is a key foundation of the IBCP. In Commack, we have the technology, tools, teachers and, most important, the motivated students to give the next generation of the American workforce an incredible head start.

The district fully expects to expand the number of career pathways available in the IBCP each year, reaching more students and allowing them to “try on” college- and career-level learning while in high school. Our goal is to offer our students a jump-start to their futures by providing multiple college-accredited career-related opportunities in addition to our robust offerings in AP and IB classes.

With a high level of community support, we also began two new annual initiatives, a Tribute to the Troops Day and a Multicultural Event, last school year. The first tribute in May began what is planned as an annual tradition of honoring veterans and active-duty military members in the Commack community to express gratitude and highlight their commitment, service and sacrifice. Our Multicultural Event brought the community, staff and students together for a day of celebrating cultural customs, games and friendship. We continue to focus on the social and emotional well-being of our students and staff and have expanded programs that provide support and assistance.


East Williston School District

The East Williston School District continues to enhance the social, emotional and academic learning of all students by incorporating the Responsive Classroom framework in its schools. In 2019, 39 teachers and administrators were trained to use the framework in classrooms and school spaces districtwide. The Responsive Classroom framework engages students in learner-centered lessons that promote curiosity while establishing a positive community steeped in the notion that all students feel safe and significant. Through the use of the Responsive Classroom model, students’ social and emotional needs are met within the classroom and building culture.

Based on students’ response to Responsive Classroom, and the success noted on all levels, training expanded in the summer of 2021 to include 28 additional staff members. Over the course of three years, staff study groups, extensive professional development and districtwide visitations have taken place to deepen staff members’ knowledge and awareness of strategies to develop affirming environments for all students. Classroom communities have been built where trust, collaboration and a growth mindset characterize the culture in all spaces. This summer, the East Williston School district coordinated the Responsive Classroom Advanced Course for 20 staff members. This four-day intensive course built upon the foundation that has enriched the culture in the district’s schools. By sharing experiences using the Responsive Classroom framework, staff members collaborated on and assisted one another in refining classroom and school building practices.


Elwood School District

In the Elwood School District, we are excited about several initiatives that support the social and emotional development of our adolescent learners. Coming out of the pandemic, our students need support now more than ever to ensure they are capable of reaching their full academic and social emotional potential.

While there are many Pre-K to 12 initiatives to celebrate, I’d like to focus my comments on Elwood Middle School. Our middle school is kicking off the school year implementing a staff-to-student mentoring program, service learning opportunities, the continued growth of our restorative-practices program and staff development on trauma-sensitive instructional practices. These initiatives surround and support the unique developmental needs of our adolescent learner. They all include building strong relationships with trusted adults, repairing harm when transgressions occur and helping our students to view themselves as a part of our larger school community.

We have also created a program that will target and assist students who are struggling academically. This class will be taught by both a teacher and school psychologist to provide instructional support, as well as explicit teaching of the academic and resiliency skills needed for long-term success. These initiatives continue the academic excellence, developmental responsiveness and social equity the Elwood Community has come to expect from the school, nationally recognized as a model middle school through the National Forum Schools to Watch program.


Freeport School District

Freeport Public Schools is proud to provide our students with the best of opportunities to learn and thrive. We continue our focus on health and wellness with the expansion of the pre-K through grade 12 Sources of Strength program. This evidenced-based curriculum helps our students develop and practice positive social and emotional skills by identifying and growing strengths in their lives. Sources of Strength, a comprehensive wellness model, centers on building strength and resilience in individuals and communities through the eight “Strengths” of the curriculum: Family Support, Positive Friends, Mentors, Healthy Activities, Generosity, Spirituality, Physical Health and Mental Health. Students can explore and grow strength in their own lives and build resilience promoting health and wellness.

We are excited to begin the Northwell Community Scholar Program, with a focus on career awareness and exploration with supports. Successful sophomore applicants will receive access to a variety of services to support them in successfully acquiring their high school diploma and pursuing an associate degree or certificate program. The support services continue throughout the program as they progress through high school and college. Supports include mentoring, career advisement, internships opportunities, financial support, and connection to other Northwell programs and employment opportunities, among other things.



Garden City School District

Garden City Public Schools is extremely proud to participate in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program Mission 17 to the International Space Station in the 2022-23 school year. STEAM learning is an initiative that our district has fully embraced, and our participation in SSEP is an ideal outlet for our students’ talent, enthusiasm and commitment to the STEAM fields (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics).

Through our participation in SSEP, all seventh-grade science students will work to design microgravity experiments and, ultimately, one team’s project will be chosen to be launched into space! In addition, another experiment designed by our middle-school students will be sent to the International Space Station in October. The students will analyze the results of their experiment when it comes back after several months at the space station. In art classes, our students in all grades will be working on designing spaceflight patches to celebrate the district participation in the U.S. space program. Two patches will be selected to be sent to the International Space Station next year, and two patches designed by our students last year will soar to orbit the Earth in October along with the science student space experiment.


Half Hollow Hills Central School District

In the Half Hollow Hills Central School District, we believe in providing our students with innovative and cutting-edge instructional technology to help equip them with the 21st century job skills they will need to be competitive in the future. In line with this philosophy, for the 2022-2023 school year we are introducing an augmented-reality sandbox at our Discovery Center. Our elementary students visit the Discovery Center for interactive science lessons throughout the year, and the new AR sandbox will allow them to learn more deeply about mapping and landforms. The program also ties into our High School East planetarium, which was recently renovated with a digital projection system.

The sandbox uses a Kinect 3D Scanner to detect the height and placement of the sand in the basin, calculates the appropriate projection and transmits the information to the projector creating topographic lines and colors on the corresponding sand below. Students will interact with the sand to change landscapes, learn about the processes of weathering, erosion and deposition, and even simulate rainfall by holding their hands above the sand. This will aid in our students’ exploration of earth science and help them to develop and apply their technical skills.  


Herricks School District

The New York State Board of Regents is committed to civic education that empowers all students to make informed decisions for the public good as members of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world. As such, the board will issue a Seal of Civic Readiness upon graduation to any student who meets its established criteria. In order to have students eligible to receive the seal, a school district must provide students meaningful opportunities to develop specific civic knowledge, skills and mindset, and to participate in authentic actions and experiences that are necessary for them to function as productive civic participants within their schools, communities, states, our country and the world.

Herricks successfully completed the application and was approved by NYSED. We are excited to be offering this seal as we believe that our graduating seniors will have an excellent chance of receiving this prestigious honor because of the wonderful social studies opportunities we have in place. Some of the meaningful learning experiences our students will engage in while working toward this seal is our unique News Literacy course at the middle school, the comprehensive Racial Literacy in Society courses at the high school, and the Participation in Government project completed in their senior year. We are so excited to bring the Seal of Civic Readiness to Herricks.  


Mineola School District

Mineola is committed to evolving the structure of high school to meet the changing needs of learners and prepare them for the future. This school year we will launch Synergy @MineolaHS. This model will empower learners with the skills and dispositions to become self-directed in all aspects of the learning process, from time, to place and space. We have eliminated classroom periods and placed all coursework in the cloud. Competency-based courses will enable learners to learn at their own speed and pace, providing them opportunities to not only learn content, but valuable life skills such as time management and initiative.

Teachers will serve as content-area specialists and mentors, providing seminars as well as group and individual support. Learners will be guided toward full responsibility for their daily schedule and coursework completion, taking ownership of their learning process and building essential life skills. The flexible schedule will also allow learners to pursue topics or build skills that they are curious or passionate about during the school day. We are finalizing an agreement with a young entrepreneur who will run his business out of the Synergy building and provide insight for learners who are interested in business. We also have plans to bring a retail store on the site that can teach business through a hands-on model.  


North Merrick School District

The North Merrick School District is proud to build on our Social Emotional Learning initiatives within the academic curriculum to support the physical and mental growth of our K-6 students. The district’s Mental Health and Wellness Coalition, with members from stakeholder groups both within the district and the larger community, will continue its bimonthly meetings to plan activities surrounding the SEL initiatives.

Each class will hold Morning Meetings and Closing Circles to encourage active dialogue among students. Each school has a Mindfulness Club appropriate for each grade level, as well as a Mindfulness Ambassador program for students in grades 5 and 6 who serve as mentors to the younger grades. Our newest addition will be Saturday morning retreats for the Mindfulness Club in each of our schools to engage in collaborative projects. Calm Boxes, available in every classroom and health office, will be filled with creative and practical items to assist students with calming techniques. Faculty are being trained on Restorative Practices, usually a secondary school program, and teachers will incorporate these practices into circle time for students to further share their feelings, validate their opinions and better communicate with one another.


Oceanside School District

We are extremely excited about the creation of the Oceanside High School Wellness Center. We all know that the rise in mental health issues among students is of paramount concern. Now, more than ever, schools must take an active role in fostering habits of wellness and supporting teenagers with health concerns.

The Oceanside High School Wellness Center will encompass meeting rooms for individual and small-group counseling and workshops for students, parents and teachers. It will house a studio for students to learn and participate in stress and anxiety management exercises, such as mindfulness and yoga. It will also incorporate comfortable and inviting seating areas for students to decompress and interact with emotional-support dogs. This wellness center will be of benefit to every Oceanside school district student in grades 9 to 12, their families and teachers for years to come. They will have access to the prevention and intervention support, education, resources and services it has to offer. It will also be a means by which to promote greater parent-school communication and a collaborative approach toward addressing student mental health, thus leading to a healthy, more productive student body and greater educational outcomes.


Port Washington School District

At Schreiber High School, we have a renewed focus on making sure all of our students have the ability to graduate with a high school diploma. The new Schreiber Twilight Program provides an alternate setting for students who are not successful in the traditional daytime setting. Social-emotional and academic supports are embedded in each student’s program to maximize their potential for success. Students have the option to return to the traditional Schreiber setting or remain a Schreiber Twilight student until graduation. All Schreiber Twilight students will be ready to pursue their postsecondary college and career goals upon graduation.


Sachem Central School District

In the Sachem Central School District, we are moving to a nine-period day for the first time in our secondary schools. We are looking forward to this opportunity, as the implementation of this additional academic period will allow us to offer a many more courses and experiences to our students.

In our middle schools we will offer a Grade 6 Exploratory Language course that will allow for an introductory study of Spanish, French and Italian. Academic Success courses will be offered that will support remediation, the bridging of skills needed for higher-level courses and enrichment of study. This will allow more students to challenge themselves with more rigorous courses of study. Academic Success courses include the planning of academic pathways for our students. These courses include College and Career Exploration, along with learning skills sets that are necessary for future career success. Additional periods of math and science will prepare more Sachem students to challenge themselves by taking algebra and earth science in eighth grade.

At our high schools we will offer additional Advanced Placement courses, including Human Geography and Computer Science and Programming, as well as courses such as Finance Essentials, Theater Arts and Stage Craft. We are excited for these additional rich experiences to be available to our students and designed and executed by our talented staff.

Our approach will ensure not only instilling the 21st century skills of creativity, communication, critical thinking and collaboration but “future ready” skills that will develop our students as informed researchers and communicators. We will maintain a particular focus around informational literacy, media literacy and technology literacy. We are confident this approach will develop our students to be well-rounded, civic-minded individuals in their professional and personal lives. 


West Hempstead School District

The West Hempstead School District is entering into a partnership with Adelphi University and Bank Street College of Education in Manhattan through The Education Innovation and Research Program. This grant-based partnership provides opportunities for higher-ed students to be residents within our district. Together with our highly skilled faculty and university professors, these students can explore and help refine our 21st-century teaching practices as they prepare for a career in education.

The main purpose of the program is to: 1) explore new ways of addressing persistent challenges that other educators can build on and learn from; 2) build evidence of the effectiveness of their practices; and 3) replicate and scale successful practices in new schools, districts and states while addressing the barriers to scale, such as cost structures and implementation fidelity.


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