Northeast wins NYSED achievement award


Teachers and administrators alike at Northeast Elementary pointed to the combination of staff, students, and families as a reason for the school’s continued success.

by Amanda Hutchinson and Angela Mammino

Ithaca City School District’s Northeast Elementary received the New York State Education Department High Performance Reward School designation last month for its academic achievements from 2011 to 2013.

The designation goes to New York schools within the top 20th percentile of academic achievement in the state, as well as to those schools in the top 10th percentile of progress in English language arts (ELA) and math. In addition to requiring high academic achievement, it also requires that students at these schools are making faster academic progress than the state average. Northeast is the second ICSD school in three years to receive the designation.

This year, 354 schools out of more than 4600 throughout the state received the designation. Northeast principal Jeff Tomasik said the school’s success comes largely from the cooperation between students, staff, and families, and he was glad that there is now recognition for that.

“We have an awesome staff, great families, great kids that all work really well together,” Tomasik said. “Our teachers are really talented and committed to success of all kids, the parents and families as a whole are very supportive of the school, and the students are very curious, very hard working. We all work really hard to make it a fun place but also a place for kids to achieve at a really high level.”

Melissa Tesoriero, who recently won an award from the Ithaca City School District for her 25 years of service teaching at Northeast, said the staff and faculty are very dedicated to getting students on the same page academically. It is not uncommon to see teachers staying late after school, and Tomasik is very supportive of the teachers’ plans.

“There’s a lot of pressure on teachers right now with Common Core and the New York State standards, and Jeff works with us and trusts us enough to let us keep moving forward,” Tesoriero said. “There are three [third grade] teachers and we meet every day and talk so that every child that’s in third grade really is receiving the same instruction along the same page.”

Tesoriero also noted the need to adapt to teaching models that better serve students’ needs. While she knows what she wants her students to get out of each lesson, she also recognizes that guiding rather than lecturing and small group works allows them to learn from each other as well as from her, and she can also learn from them.

“Direct instruction, where the teacher is standing in front of the classroom, is kind of a thing of the past,” she said. “We have to realize that different kids learn in so many different ways, and we have to try and come up with as many of those ways as we can so that all kids are successful.”

The Reward School designation came just three years after Northeast was named a Blue Ribbon School by the United States Department of Education, recognizing the school’s high levels of achievement on the national level. Tomasik was invited to a conference in Washington, DC to network with other Blue Ribbon School administrators and learn about their programming.

Northeast shares the designation of Reward School with fellow ICSD school Belle Sherman Elementary, which received it in 2012. Belle Sherman principal Dan Breiman also emphasized the balance of achievement and enjoyment that were recognized by this award.

“Our students have demonstrated what it means to not only excel in the classroom but to have fun while doing so,” Breiman said.

Part of the Reward Schools’ responsibility is to reduce the achievement gap between students of different “accountability measures” such as income level. Belle Sherman Parent Teacher Association treasurer and parent Leia Raphaelidis said the administration at Belle Sherman continues to work to narrow these gaps, not only in terms of testing but also with technology and book access and academic assistance as a whole.

“Whether a student’s parents are both PhDs at Cornell or newly arrived refugees with limited English, there is universal commitment to help each kid succeed,” she said.

Neither designation came with a budgetary incentive, but Tomasik said it is incentive to continue their “standard of excellence” through their current programming as well as good recognition for the school’s work .

“It’s nice to start the year with positive momentum and positive energy,” he said.


Don’t worry, I made it back from Argentina ok. I just didn’t have much time to post because I was working most of the week and a half I was home, and then as soon as I got back to good old Ithaca, I was working all day here too. As it is, I started this post on I think Wednesday and haven’t gotten around to finishing it til now.

Never fear, though, because I have another class that requires WordPress posting! I’m still a little nervous about multimedia because it’s a full fledged newsroom course on top of the 14 other credits I’m taking (not to mention work), but it’ll be good practice for the real world when I’ll probably have to take on two jobs to make ends meet, and it looks like there’s minimal video editing. Those stories will be under the newly created “Digital Newsroom” category and tab so they have their own special place separate from other shenanigans that may be posted here, and they’ll be out either every week or every other week, depending on the assignment.

I’m also hoping to be better about posting my external articles on here. They always go into my Portfolio tab, but I’m not deluding myself into thinking people actually look there, so a quick post to say “Hey, I wrote this” should help with traffic. The informational meeting for Buzzsaw is Wednesday, so the first article for that will probably be out around the end of the month, and if I do end up writing my obligatory article for The Ithacan, I’ll post that too. I was supposed to have one this week about the history of craft beer in Ithaca based on an exhibit at Cornell, but the exhibit said nothing about Ithaca and the oldest brewery here is 15 years old, plus my editors didn’t like my idea to expand it to the history of craft beer in upstate NY, which is much more involved.

EDIT: It turns out there’s an advantage of being friends with the editor-in-chief. I explained the situation with my beer article, and he said that he can override the section editor and let me expand it to the region so they actually get an article.

Finally, the class may require some reworking of the site, so keep an eye out for that.

Stay tuned for another story-filled semester!

Heading out

My stuff is (mostly) packed, I’ve bought (almost) all the snacks I want to bring back, and I did early check-in, so really at this point it’s just waiting for a last-minute shower, dinner, and then the taxi to take me to the airport where I get to begin my super awesome 24-hour traveling adventure of planes, trains, and automobiles. (seriously, though, I have an hour ride to the airport, a 7 hour flight to Panama City, a 4 hour layover there, a 5 hour flight to Newark, a 2.5 hour layover there, a 3.5 hour train ride back to CT, and then a short car ride home.)

Long trip home aside, here are some highlights from my trip:

  • working with the lovely folks of La Poderosa Media Project to learn about the anthropology of food and how important it is to a community
  • not getting sunburnt until my last day in Ecuador…
  • being able to see some neat shows with Mente Argentina
  • getting to the point where I was comfortable walking around Buenos Aires on my own (during the day…)
  • writing for The Bubble and getting my first professional journalistic hate mail because even though I’m still annoyed with the inability of some people to understand how science and science journalism work, it was a good article and I’m proud of it.
  • and getting to try all the food, whether it be a 3-hour manabita classic, a Pick Up the Fork “restaurant for cheap bastards,” or milanesas and ice cream with my host family.

It’s been fun, guys.

Stocking up

Tonight’s my last overnight in BA, so I had today and tomorrow to get all my last-minute stuff before I leave at 1am Monday morning. I didn’t do a whole lot today because I didn’t go to bed until 2:30ish, partly because my host family sister had friends over blasting Britney Spears (many songs of whom I still remember the lyrics…) and partly because I was watching more Let’s Play Cloudberry Kingdom because I suck at actually playing video games and I needed something to do because sleeping obviously wasn’t an option.

Also because it’s, you know, really entertaining.

As for my food, lunch was a little lame because I didn’t wake up til 11 or so, so I had a cookie at 3 and a choripán with a fried egg (chorihuevopán?) at 3:30 while waiting for Fuerza Bruta to start. For those of you who don’t know what it is, imagine Cirque du Soleil with less acrobatics and more acid, and that’ll get you a rough idea. I don’t want to give too much away, but there’s a lot of confetti, mist, fans, and flashy lighting. It’s pretty wild.

It’s also probably the closest I’ll ever get to a rave (or doing drugs), and I’m ok with that.

After that, we went back to the divey parrilla we went to on… whatever day that was earlier this week (Monday I think), and technically it wasn’t open yet, but they recognized us and let us sit inside and chill out til 7 when it actually opened. Since I had a choripán earlier (three and a half hours earlier…), I didn’t want another one, so I ordered what I thought was a half-portion of flank steak. It came out as a pretty sizeable piece of not flank steak, which I was ok with because it was delicious and more than enough food. I mean, this steak probably would’ve been 15 bucks in the States and I got it for the equivalent of roughly 6. Definitely glad we went.

Tomorrow will probably just be packing and stocking up on all the chocolate and cookies I want for the flight I MEAN TO BRING BACK FOR MY FRIENDS. I’ll just buy dulce de leche at Wegmans and deal with the fact that steak is more expensive back home.

Winding down

Today was a nice and relaxing day full of bread and walks and friendly people, which is a refreshing change from the two previous days. I mean, my meeting got cancelled without me knowing and the line at the post office was freakishly long because the system of the one I usually go to was down, but hey, pick your battles. Besides, 42 pesos for two delicious filled croissants and a sizeable baguette from the French bakery near my bartending classes makes up for it. And I ate all of it because I could (also because bread like that goes bad quickly).

Anyway, I only have two more days left here in BA (and no SUBE card…) so I’m just going to take it easy and chill. I will miss the practically ubiquitous access to bread and chocolate, but it’s probably for the better that I can’t just walk downstairs and buy chocolate when I’m at home or school. At least here I have to walk a half hour on average to get lunch, whereas class is only a 20 minute walk from the apartment and I don’t get any walking in at home because we have no sidewalks and I enjoy living.

Related: I will definitely be stocking up on dulce de leche and chimichurri when I get back. Neither of those sound like they travel well, especially since they’d likely be eaten if they were in my carryon, but Wegmans sells Argie dulce de leche and I found a good chimichurri recipe, so I should be set.

I did enjoy it here, and I hope to come back if I can, but I’m also ready to go home and start class again. I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do when I graduate because working doesn’t seem as fulfilling as being in school, and there’s no way I can afford grad school at this stage in the game when I already have $80K+ of debt waiting for me. Plus if I have to deal with anti-science haters more often…

(I know, dealing with people who don’t understand what you’re writing is part of the job, but if I can avoid flame wars, that would be lovely.)

Taking a step back

Those of you who know me personally know that I get into arguments very easily, especially about things I care about. Unfortunately, the things I care about are also things that are often very controversial for varying reasons of varying degrees of validity. Combine that with two long family lines of stubbornness and you can probably guess that the war started yesterday was not very easy on me. But at that point, what can you do? I’m not going to give up because their arguments are invalid. They’re not going to give up because they’re not listening to me anyway. Was my article super awesome and perfect in every way? Of course not. Am I proud of it? Damn right I am. So I’m not going to waste my time with their inability to comprehend the situation.

In lighter news, it was supposed to rain today, so I ended up staying close to find lunch rather than walking an hour to the place I had in mind (I had to hand in my public transportation card yesterday and the bus costs twice as much without it). I chanced upon a cute little cafe where I had pizza with arugula, mushrooms, and brie, and it tasted good but the toppings were thrown on right before serving, so it was more like a salad on top of a pizza rather than a pizza with said toppings. I know that’s how pizzas with arugula work, but still.

I also made a run to the post office because I had 5 letters left to write and I needed something to calm me down last night. It’s kinda funny in an annoying way how every time I go to the post office, I’m told that the letters are 23 pesos each, not the 20 I put on each. I’ve been to the post office several times not only during this trip but also since the price jumped from 20 to 23, so I know that each costs 23 pesos rather than the 20 I put on there, but I only have stamps in 10 peso increments. That’s kinda why I’m at the window with varying amounts of pesos in my hand telling you where each letter is going. I know my Spanish isn’t stellar, and I know I don’t say “estampizhus” correctly, but I used more than 400 pesos worth of stamps in six weeks, so I kinda know what I’m doing at this point. Also it doesn’t help when they make me cover the envelope in 25-cent stamps because they don’t have bigger ones adding up to 3 pesos but don’t think to use the label printer. Nevertheless, writing letters is one of those weird things I like doing, and it’s only fitting to include Argentina in my personal mission to singlehandedly save the postal system, one country at a time. The stamps are certainly expensive enough.

Fighting back

Today’s post will not be so much about my food romp (beef shawarma with a pomelo drink) because I’m currently getting shredded for the article I published yesterday. I can’t say I didn’t see this coming because I’ve been around the science journalism scene for long enough to know that anything about GMOs will get you lots of angry mobs of the anti-science and anti-Monsanto persuasions. Of course, explaining in the article that there are thousands of studies indicating nothing wrong and that I don’t agree with the politics did nothing for me because no one ever reads articles before flaming them, plus I know better than to expect people to change their minds.

Which brings me to two rules that should be established before commenting. I also know better than to expect that to happen too, but one can dream:

  1. Read the article first. Seriously, you’re going to look stupid in the comments if you bring up stuff I already shot down.
  2. More importantly, if you’re going to tell me I’m wrong (and if I am, by all means, tell me), you better have proof. I’m not talking some random site that agrees with what you think. I’m talking a peer-reviewed and published study, more than one if you can find them. I’m not going to believe you otherwise.

Rereading the comments too much makes me mad, which doesn’t help when I’m trying to respond in the most civil fashion I can when dealing with people who don’t bother to look up the information. With the exception of one commenter who pointed out a very valid grammatical error on my part (my editor is fixing this as we speak), they’re resorting to using the very misconceptions I addressed in the article with only mild variations, not to mention logical fallacies.

I don’t know what I expected.

Wait, yes, I do. I expected people to be smart enough to do their research before posting crap like that. 33,000+ articles don’t lie. A quick Google search of university sites (not even .org sites can be trusted with this one) doesn’t lie.

Welcome to science journalism.