Saturday, December 22, 2007


Plainfield teachers and administrators, usually the ones who hand out report cards, got a few grades of their own this week. And former students gave them straight As.

Plainfield High School Principal Scott Olinger invited about a dozen 2007 graduates to a round-table discussion to find out whether these college freshmen feel they were well prepared for higher education."If we want the feedback from our students, we have to ask for it and then not be afraid to hear it," he said.

The students and high school department heads talked curriculum, workload, new trends in online college classes and course offerings that form a foundation for post-secondary education.
"I'd have to say we were better prepared than most," said Samantha Jennings, a student at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. "I see some of the others struggling and wishing they had taken AP (advanced placement) and honors classes. Those really help a lot."

Angela Vaccari, now studying communications at Butler University, said, "I felt very prepared. (College) is very challenging and hectic, but I find it is manageable with the study and writing skills that we'd learned."

Several of the students said college classes have required far more writing, such as research papers and reports, creative writing and opinions, than high school classes.

Plainfield's curriculum, which includes writing assignments in every class, proved valuable to building that essential skill in college. Several students said the high school could require more writing.

Plainfield parents and students can follow their grades and other progress through the Internet, which the students said is important practice for college.
College instructors make extensive use of online systems to assign homework, administer tests and grades.

Samantha DeRoo, valedictorian of the 2007 class, said some of her classes at Purdue University may have up to 500 students in large lecture sessions. "The classes aren't so difficult but it is more on you" to get the assignments done and to prepare for tests, classes and laboratory sessions.

College isn't all about classes. Campus life and the freedom it affords has been one of the biggest transitions compared to living at home with parents' curfews, several students said, particularly when facing deadlines to complete homework assignments.

Tell us what you think! Is CSIHSIS preparing you for college? What are we doing well? What can we do better?

Join our efforts to raise funds for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

Hello College of Staten Island High School students, parents, and teachers,

With the greatest of appreciation, I'd like to thank you all for participating in the fundraising initiative on December 20th, Rally. We sent out over 3000 letters to friends and family asking them to donate to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

As you may know, money raised goes directly to the Hospital to keep research labs operating and to treat children from all over the world. This treatment is provided without regard for their families’ ability to pay. Because of your help, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital will receive much needed funds to ensure that one day there will be a cure for cancer, AIDS and other terrible diseases that threaten the lives of children.
We look forward to growing the partnership between our organization and your High School!
Happy Holidays and have a Healthy New Year!

Wiky Toussaint
Senior Event Marketing Representative
ALSAC/St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

"The question is not whether we can afford to invest in every child; it is whether we can afford not to"-Mirian Wright Edelman

St Jude Children's Research Hospital is internationally recognized for its pioneering work in finding cures and saving children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases. Founded by late entertainer Danny Thomas and based in Memphis, Tennessee, St. Jude freely shares its discoveries with scientific and medical communities around the world. No family ever pays for treatments not covered by insurance, and families without insurance are never asked to pay. St Jude is financially supported by ALSAC, its fund-raising organization.

For more information, please visit or call 1-800-822-6344.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Thoughts from Some Students

Following is a poem written by the Zinn Advisory as we practiced using our personal voice. Please feel free to comment, but try to avoid criticism as the students were brave enough to say what they really felt and we've talked about the fact that poetry is rarely "wrong."

Some Things I Wish My Teachers Knew …
By the Zinn Advisory, Fall 2007

I don’t always understand.
Not all students think alike.
Instead of telling me what I know, I’d like you to show me sometimes.
It hurts me when you don’t teach me all the material.
Your class is not the only class I’m taking.
It is important to stay on task, or on the topic.
I try my hardest.
I am exhausted.
I realize that you work hard, too.

I have more than one priority.
Grades might determine my future.
It’s annoying when you set a double standard – we’re not allowed to chat, but then you do it.
You are the shapers of young minds.
I have to hold back my criticism out of respect for you.
Sometimes I just want to be left alone.

Words cannot explain how you have changed my life.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Feedback on Student Led Conferences

Although we couldn’t include everything that we read (thank you to everyone who gave us feedback and took the time to share your thoughts with us), we want to share with you some of the ideas we learned through reading the feedback sheets. We are always looking to improve our process for Report Card night, and these comments and suggestions will help us make that happen. (Note: most comments were paraphrased for brevity)

Under, “What worked well for you tonight?”:
o It is reassuring to find that you are giving student the responsibility and opportunity to obtain a critical consciousness that is absolutely necessary …
o The opportunity for one-on-one conferencing with enough time to really talk about what is happening in school.
o No waiting on line, and that it was led by the child, not the teacher …
o The time of the meeting was based on when I could be here …
o I was able to ask questions and get them answered.
o Having the student speak for himself … Making decisions together for a plan of action.
o That students plan their own resolutions to problems.
o It feels more organized … and convenient (we did not have to wait).
o Being able to have a real conversation, not 3 minute chats.
o The time and purpose is suitable for everyone …
o It makes my child accountable for talking about his learning …
o I am able to see how my child feels about school and his work.
o The student understands, recognizes, and discusses her weaknesses and ways to improve.
o I heard the truth from my daughter … and got individual attention.
o It was great to hear the student’s point of view.
o I was pleased with the organization and the letter my daughter had to write.
o It helped me clarify my son’s progress and what he needs to do to improve.

Under, “What can we do to improve Student Led Conferences?”:
o Have a chance to meet more frequently, for struggling students.
o Advisor can give suggestions for how to help student influence their own grade.
o Giving the students more time and support to write letters and feel prepared.
o Provide some option to meet with teachers at some point as well.
o Encourage students to show evidence of improvements and digressions.
o Hold an evening session of regular parent-teacher conferences … or afternoon Student Led Conferences for those who can attend.
o Require that the conference include creating a plan of action for improvement.
o Ensure that students’ evidence folders are complete … and ask teachers to give input through the evidence folder (especially in struggling classes).
o Have the students be prepared with specific ways they will improve.
o Maybe show the Report Card before the folder.
o Make sure the student is prepared to lead the discussion, so the advisor doesn’t dominate the conversation.
o More time to get into the issues would be nice.
o Have a [grade-level] team report on the student included in the folder …
o Send a questionnaire to the parents before the evening to help them prepare …
o Let the kids see the report cards before they write their letter.
o Have the advisor have a break-down of how my child is doing in every class.

Things to Celebrate!

We have so many things to celebrate as the year comes to an end. Although I can't hope to list them all, here are a few things that have happened recently that we are very proud of:
•Twenty seven students no longer have to attend mandated after-school tutoring. Fourteen who did not have to attend last marking period, now have to attend. Many thanks to Elissa Garcia and Jennifer Lima for organizing the program, for helping students in need, and for supervising our college tutors.
•Twenty two junior students will be receiving waivers to take courses at CSI during the spring semester. They will take everything from chorus, photography, and sculpture to American government, business, political science, and physics.
•Freshman, sophomore and juniors will be enrolled in College Now courses in either Psychology or Sociology.
•Junior student Kasey Fausak will depart for Argentina on 12/25 and will then voyage to the Antartic with Students on Ice. Her trip is fully paid through a scholarship she won.
•The CSIHSIS Dragons Girls Basketball team has had two wins, with its most recent win being against Petrides in overtime. Congrats to the entire team for their outstanding teamwork, to Kaitlin Moriarity for scoring the winning basket in overtime, and to their coach, Ms. Zinn!
•The CSIHSIS Dragons Boys Basketball team recently defeated Bay Ridge Prep from Brooklyn. Congrats to the entire boy's team, to captain Shaun Quinto for his outstanding leadership and to their coach, Frank Benigno.
•Congrats to Parliament on getting our school involved in helping to fulfill the wishes of less fortunate children and their families during this holiday season and for starting a blog where anyone can make suggestions and ask questions of the student government.
•Congratulations to Darlene Akanmu, the talented winner of our Sophomore Poetry Slam!!!! Kudos to everyone who participated in this exciting event. Many thanks go out to Nancy Kaplan and Heather Prevosti for organizing the slam, and to our guest Poet, Lamont Dixon for sharing his enthusiasm and energy.


Monday, December 10, 2007


Just wanted to share some good news with our school community. Today I was notified that Ms. Garcia's second Donor's Choose proposal has been fulfilled. Thanks to Ms. Garcia taking time and initiative to write this proposal and thanks to the generosity of the donor's, all students in Ms. Garcia's Regents Level Spanish class will be provided with Regents Review Books as well as computer software for Regents Review. This is the sixth Donor's Choose proposal that our school has had fulfilled. Previously fulfilled proposals were for bookcases, independent reading books, knitting supplies, a CD player and CDs with music from other countries, and supplies to create our Day of the Dead altar and celebration.

Donor's Choose is a website that allows teachers at schools across the country to post proposals for projects and materials they need to enhance their students; learning experiences. Individuals can then donate any amount they choose to help fund the proposal. To learn more about the site visit

Share this site with friends and family so that we can continue to have proposals that enrich our students' educational experiences funded.

Read excerpts of the letter I received from Donor's Choose below:

Dear Head of School:

Your colleague, Mrs. Garcia recently earned support at for "Review Books For N.Y.S. Regent Exam In Spanish":

We are emailing some of the teachers at your school to help raise awareness of these resources' arrival. Our hope is that you can all work together to help ensure that these resources reach the intended classroom.

The following resource(s) will be purchased after then and delivered to Mrs. Garcia's attention:
- Barron's Regents Exams & Answers Spanish Level 3 Christopher Kendris (Editor), Maxim Newmark (Editor), quantity 25, $6.29 each
- Barrons Regents Power Pack Spanish Maria F. Nadel, Christopher Kendris, quantity 10, $20.69 each

Thank you for helping to ensure that the resource(s) finds its way to Mrs. Garcia's classroom!

Mrs. Garcia has committed to mail thank-you letters for this project by Feb 25, 2008. When donors receive such feedback, they are typically inspired to fund more student projects, so the sincerity and timeliness of Mrs. Garcia's thank-you letters are critical to getting resources into the hands of more students at your school.

Thank you for fostering an environment where teachers are motivated to seek extra resources for their students!

The Team