MASSENA — A program that was piloted during the Massena Central School District’s 2019-20 school year is back for another year.
Led by foreign language teachers Sarah Hopper and Joseph Boyle, the first Seal of Biliteracy program among St. Lawrence County schools led to three students graduating with the designation despite the challenges of COVID-19.
The New York State Seal of Biliteracy recognizes high school graduates who have attained a high level of proficiency in listening, speaking, reading and writing in one or more languages in addition to English. The program offered opportunities in French and Spanish.
The award is a gold seal that appears on the transcript or diploma of the graduating senior.
“They get mentored throughout the year. They have a project that they have to present in front of a panel. Last year, we had three of our students who were successful in doing that,” Superintendent Patrick Brady said.
As part of the preparation for their panel presentation at the end of the year, students kept a journal of their research progress, which was written in the target language.
The mentors for the first year included Ellen Hodge, Kristen Colarusso-Martin, Carrie Thomas, Tammy Blanchard, Jan Normile, Janine Gardner, Todd Kimble, Em Kimble and Chris Sanchez.
Ms. Hopper served as the coordinator, and was part of the Seal of Biliteracy Committee along with Mr. Boyle, Mike Violi, Trista Girard, Janine Gardner, Mike Chartrand, Sarah Boyce and Julianne White.
The committee ensured that the student proposals met the requirements of the plans and confirmed that the student had met the requirements before they appeared for the panel presentation.
Mr. Brady said, when adding a new program to the district’s curriculum, they ask advisers to get it up and running and show that it can be successful for students. If it is, the district’s Board of Education is asked to approve funding for the following year.
“This process is similar to other extracurricular programs we have recently established where the program is commenced without compensation the first year and if successful, the district provides funding in year two,” Mr. Brady said.
He said, given the success of the program, he asked the board to establish a Seal of Biliteracy coordinator position, which they did during their recent meeting.
A memorandum from high school Principal Alan Oliver lists the responsibilities of coordinator, including recruiting candidates for the program, holding interest meetings, creating mentors and collaborating with other schools. Students must have a grade of 80 or better on the Common Core Regents examination in order to participate.
Students who achieve the honor can include it on their college application and their resumes.