October 20, 2021

Cortland teachers visit new schools

Faculty prepares to take on new roles after Parker, Virgil close

Bob Ellis/staff photographer

Virgil elementary school is shown in this file photo.

Cortland elementary school teachers have visited their new schools, met their new principals and now the schools are creating their identities and missions, district officials said Tuesday night.

Teachers in the district, which is closing two of five elementary schools in July, visited their respective schools Monday, a professional development day, Eileen Fitzgerald-Spiehs, president of Cortland United Teachers, said at a school board meeting.

“My faculty is excited, they feel more relaxed because they have more information,” Fitzgerald-Spiehs said.

When Parker and Virgil schools close in July, Barry Elementary School will serve kindergarten to second grade, Smith Intermediate School will serve grades three and four and Randall Middle School will host grades five and six.

The move was intended to streamline operations and reduce the district’s dependence on reserves to balance its budget, though those savings will not be seen immediately.

Dates for parents and student orientation have yet to be set, but the schools are creating welcome videos that will be accessible online. One, an introduction to Smith School, was shown at Tuesday’s meeting and featured two students giving a virtual tour.

Barry Elementary Principal Ashley Jordan, who will become principal at Randall Middle School, said the professional development day was very productive.

“Everyone is excited, the teachers, teaching assistants,” he said.

In the meantime, the transition team of faculty, parents and community members have been meeting to set details like the district’s new logo and when orientation and other events will be.

Three different tiger outlines will be presented to students for a vote, but the transition team’s favored image is a black outline of a tiger that a student created, Fitzgerald-Spiehs said.

Now the schools will begin crafting their identities and visions, said Jeff Craig, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

“It’s the act of coming together to share what they believe their mission is, they collaborate and come up with it,” he said. “They describe what the school will look like in the future, three to five years out.”

This too involves a team decision-making process, he said. Goals can’t be the same for every school.

“They are not all starting at the same place, so some goals are incremental and get to bigger goals,” he said.