Oldham updates board on school year so far

RIPLEY — The Ripley Central School Board voted unanimously to grant tenure to first grade teacher Adriel Gestwicki at its regular meeting Oct. 15.

Principal Micah Oldham read an enthusiastic letter that he wrote in support of Gestwicki’s approval of tenure. Oldham said Gestwicki has been a first grade teacher throughout his tenure with the district. He noted her many accomplishments, including “the creation of a thriving classroom community during the school shutdown.”

William Caldwell, district superintendent, concurred with Oldham’s evaluation. He praised Gestwicki’s willingness to adapt to whatever circumstances come her way.

“Adriel is one of our ‘ping pong balls’ with rooms,” Caldwell said. “She was back and forth from this room to that, but she never complained.”

Following board approval, Gestwicki was presented with a bouquet of flowers by Oldham and applauded by all present.

Board member also approved all CSE and CPSE recommendations for the 2020-21 school year. Oldham noted that it was a “pretty substantial list, coming back to school after a long break.”

In a related matter, Oldham expressed his appreciation for staff and students alike, whose actions are keeping the school safe and running smoothly. He noted that many people believed the school would have to shut down again.

“We’re still here,” Oldham said. “That’s a big testimony to Doug (head of maintenance, Doug Norton) and his crew doing such a great job keeping the building clean, and to all the kids doing everything they’re supposed to do — washing their hands and following protocol.”

Likewise, Caldwell said he is impressed with the faculty and students, as well.

“I’m amazed at the willingness of our students to wear masks,” he said. “I’m absolutely impressed with their willingness to follow the guidelines.”

Oldham also reported on the results from the completed iReady test, telling board members that the data was what the administration and faculty expected.

“There has been some regression,” Oldham said. “However, we plan to test again before Thanksgiving break, and I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of kids will close the gaps.”

Oldham also reported that the special education teachers have been trained for the Wilson Reading System. The intense training was able to be done online, he said.

“One of the benefits of COVID is they’re offering online training now for teachers,” Oldham said. “For struggling readers, it will give us another option, rather than the phonics system.”

Oldham also reported on various student accomplishments, highlighting a 7.1 mile trail bike ride with fifth grade teacher, Justin Akin and outdoor activities with sixth grade teacher Erika Meredith at the Ripley Rod and Gun Club. “A lot of trips have had to be cancelled, but our adventure program will continue,” he said.

Oldham told board members that the PTO is preparing Halloween “goody bags” for the students this year, as no treats are permitted to brought directly from students’ homes this year. The PTO is also providing blue T-shirts for all students to wear on blue shirt Fridays.

In another, Caldwell related a message from the bus garage, expressing concern about the use of a sports bus which is carrying an average of three students a day from Chautauqua Lake Central School.

Caldwell noted that the initial agreement required a minimum of ten students in order to run the bus. He asked board members to think about and discuss the matter for a future decision.

Caldwell also said that he plans to initiate a half-day on the second Friday of each month in order to do professional development. The teachers and staff used to meet daily during recess for professional development, but that is not possible as there is no recess time.

“Professional development was a victim of COVID,” he said.


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