END OF THE YEAR MESSAGE FROM
Christopher R. Zublionis, Ed. D.
Superintendent of Schools/Chief Viking - North Shore CSD
June 23, 2023
Dear Students, Faculty, Staff and Families,
One Year or Year One? That is the question that I asked myself on July 1st, 2022, my first day as your Superintendent of Schools. The answer to the question made a significant difference in how we approached the 2022-2023 school year.
Is this one year, to survive, to endure and maintain? Or, is this year one of a journey that begins with confronting challenges as part of a necessary investment in the future. I can assure you that the North Shore CSD Central Office team most definitely saw this year as year one of a new North Shore that honors “what makes us, us” while also confronting challenges, re-imagining protocols and systems and making hard decisions to open up growth. We needed to traverse some difficult waters this year but in the process, we have been looking at how we can improve our Viking ship. Success in this venture is measured by two questions:
the experience for students growing and improving?
the system and its people open to feedback and obsessed with the next steps needed?
I believe the answer to these two questions is “yes” as the philosophy of our District is that, we never arrive. While we have celebrated many victories, we are obsessed with progress and our plans to keep improving. As with our daily work with students, we are in the moving business and we need to keep going and growing. Our Board of Education has this same approach of asking critical questions in the best interests of our students and community.
The year began with financial uncertainty. Due to the Nassau County Settlement with LIPA, there was tremendous confusion about the setting of the tax levy. We quickly met with the Nassau County Assessor who explained how we should adjust the levy and we did. We called this initial challenge, the Mountain of Clarity. Then, we shifted to the bigger, tougher and more multi-tiered Mountains of Cost which we will continue to climb for several years. This climb has involved a changing tax base and the search for efficiencies in our own spending. We also have begun the search for new revenues and will continue to meet with our new revenue generation think tank. We need to keep progressing in these areas as the mountains are steep but we are energized for the climb. Moreover, how we climb is essential. We have to make sure that both our community and our students rise with us because in the end, our school is the community and our community is the school. We are one. And while we have made many efforts to increase communication between the school and the community, we know that we need to do more and do more differently.
Next year’s budget was a challenging one to design with the loss of 3.5 Million dollars in revenue at the same time that we had an inflationary, non-discretionary cost increase of 7.1 Million dollars and community requests for both turf field replacement and a safe space for our growing dance program. This initial budget deficit of 10.6 Million dollars was a steep and painful one that was eased partially by an increase in State Aid but required 2.7 Million dollars in budget cuts and the use of 3.85 Million in reserves and fund balance. The community's support of our budget acknowledges the new efficiencies that also preserve programs for students, and also authorized the use of the District's capital reserve to replace the High School Turf Field and renovate a classroom for dance students. Both projects are moving along nicely.
At the start of this year, we also faced construction challenges which made it difficult to open school in September. Through the collaboration of our faculty, administration and staff and the tremendous work of our custodial and maintenance teams, we were able to open on time and continue working throughout the year. Thankfully, we are excited to be going into this next summer construction season with a running start and a smaller scope of work.
We have spent the year examining protocols in the areas of purchasing, personnel and supervision. Our leadership team has discussed organizational habits so we can make small but powerful changes. We have reorganized our district committees for maximum clarity and effectiveness. We are improving the inner workings of our system that our students do not see, so that they can have a smoother and more fulfilling journey on this Viking ship.
In 2022-2023, our students had a terrific year and moreover, we added a 14th grade (our UPK program) mid year. We are thrilled to have these little Vikings with us. One of the greatest joys this year was to witness the happiness in our 5th graders visiting these little ones. Next year, we will offer 108 UPK seats.
In academic achievement, athletics, the fine and performing arts, and science, math and humanities competitions, our students have soared. We have a record, 111 students earning the Seal of Biliteracy and we have begun work in the Seal of Civic Readiness with 174 students earning that distinction. It has been thrilling to see our students fully back in action, without restriction in all of their glory at their games and concerts, and symposiums. We have had several championship teams and several teams that were semi finalists. The Board was able to support the addition of coaches and new extracurricular clubs, and we also made significant progress on the team uniform front. Our students excelled in their own concerts and at NYSSMA competitions and other festivals. We had fully in person concerts and theatrical productions that were also live-streamed and of course, we had an amazingly emotional and powerful dance symposium. Our students performed well academically and returned to a typical year of schooling. College acceptances were impressive in the most challenging admissions climate ever and we have begun highlighting the importance of our students who choose to move into the trades or otherwise directly into the workforce and who will do substantially well in their own right.
We have used the year to craft and refine a renewed strategic plan, written through the lens of students: The North Shore Journey, with input from all school community stakeholders. The framework is based on the four major components of student engagement broadly defined: meaningful learning and academic growth, positive relationships, interests and strengths, and wellness. This new plan will provide us with a necessary balance between focused goals and evolving actions within those goals. We understand that change and progress take time, that organizations need to see efforts through to reach a tipping point of impact, but we also know that we need to be flexible and open about how we are assessing that progress and modifying our approach each year.
Throughout it all, in the interests of ALL of our students, we must remain critical of our own efforts by asking the following questions of the actions we take and the experiences we offer:
How consistent are actions and experiences intentionally implemented throughout all school buildings?
Towhat extent are the actions and experiences implemented in a deliberate progression, K-12 where students grow towards sophistication?
How accessible are new actions and experiences for ALL students?
How is student progress assessed and what is the role of intervention and differentiation to meet the diverse and unique needs of individual students?
How are planned tasks, actions and goals modified from year-to-year to reflect the changing needs of all students?
As one of my favorite mentors has said, “If you want to be excellent or elite, then you have to do special things; you have to have special intensity, focus, commitment, drive and passion.” This correlates with the part of our District's mission statement which says: We are committed to reaching beyond routine expectations. Freed from some of the initial mountains we climbed last July, I’m excited to begin “year two” on July 1, 2023, with vigor in our special efforts.
I want to thank the Board of Education, the Central Office team, the entire North Shore community, our highly supportive families, our amazing students, our talented and caring faculty, and staff, our fabulous five principals, and our highly committed full leadership team for an excellent “year one” at North Shore. I am so excited to leverage the momentum we have built this year as we enter the 2023-2024 school year.
I wish you a restful and relaxing summer!
Go Vikings! Go!
Christopher R. Zublionis, Ed. D.