Forestville celebrates tech grant, student award

FORESTVILLE — There was cause for much celebration during the June meeting of the Forestville Board of Education, as two awards signified important achievements and exciting opportunities for the school district in the coming years.

Forestville Superintendent Renee Garrett welcomed Mike Bayba, distance learning specialist, from Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES Distance Learning network. Bayba, along with distance learning specialist Bryan Olson, who participated in the meeting via video, were pleased to share details about the learning technology grant recently awarded by New York state.

“Your district is participating with Erie 2-BOCES, six other school districts from our BOCES and a couple of Erie 1 schools,” Bayba explained. “The purpose of the grant is cultural and linguistic opportunities for students.”

Bayba and Olson will be working with Forestville ELA teacher Simone Klubek to connect Forestville classrooms with classrooms in Namibia, Africa, a country on the west coast just north of South Africa.

“We have a connection with a gentleman who works for an organization called Educators of America,” Bayba continued. “They have boots on the ground with the Peace Corps in Namibia. Over there, we’ve got Peace Corps volunteers who will help us coordinate times, dates and getting technology to schools to make sure they have good internet. Basically, we’re using the internet to be able to connect kids and introduce them to kids on the other side of the world.” Bayba shared videos from Persell Middle School in Jamestown, where students interacted with classrooms in Namibia last year.

“One of the parts of the grant that we were really fortunate to get was money for people, which doesn’t usually happen,” Bayba explained. “We’ve got part-time folks who will be working with us and helping the teachers find not just Namibia connections, but connections to other places like zoos and museums that will allow kids to get connected right from their classrooms.” Bayba was pleased to share that Forestville will be participating in this program for the next two school years, as the grant runs through June of 2021.

Following Bayba’s presentation, Garrett shared exciting news with school board members. A Forestville student recently participated in a student video contest hosted by the Rural Schools Association of New York State in partnership with the New York School Insurance Reciprocal. The contest invited students to enter videos explaining how their school contributed to their community or what made their community special.

“There were roughly 50 entries in the contest, from all over the state,” Garrett explained. “Forestville Central School District is honored to be the home of a contest award winner whose video excelled in content, video presentation and message.” She congratulated Sylvea Cleary, a senior, who won second prize. Garrett recognized her with a certificate and monetary award of $100, on behalf of the Rural Schools Association and NYSIR.

Cleary thanked Garrett and shared her plans with the school board. “I’m going to Canisius College, and I will be studying sport and exercise healthcare,” she said.

Garrett played Cleary’s award-winning video, which celebrates the school’s participation in the Farm to School movement. Cleary’s video shared interviews with Garrett, students, participating farmers and cafeteria employees about the partnership, which involves incorporating local farmers’ products into the school menu.

“One of my favorite items that has been added to our menu is, by far, the smoothies,” said student Rachel Goodrich. “I like how the students have been able to take part in deciding what kind of smoothies we get on our menu and voting for the type of smoothie we get to eat everyday. Since our school has been buying from local farms, the food is fresher and more attractive, and makes the students want to buy it more often.”

Cafeteria staff explained that cooking with local produce can be more expensive; however, by pairing local foods with the USDA foods, the cost is balanced. “Cooking with local food is a great way to increase support for our food service program,” they explained. “Families love the idea of locally-sourced food, and it tastes better when it’s fresh. It’s our job to nourish the students, and we love it!”

Over the past two years, Forestville has received multiple rounds of Farm to School grant funding, which has allowed the purchase of new kitchen equipment to cook and preserve locally-grown produce, hire a nutrition integration educator and create more partnerships with local farmers to continue to serve fresh food in the coming years.

To view Cleary’s video, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TONVLuIN2c4.