By Jennifer Weber
Springville Middle School’s 8th Grade Social Studies teacher, Drew Beiter, updated the Board of Directors at the Monday, Jan. 9 SGI school board meeting, with highlights from the ‘Welcoming Cities for Refugees’ presentation he gave in Athens, Greece in November 2016 as a part of a United Nations conference “to emphasize the role of education, in changing hearts and minds and making cities more welcome to combating xenophobia.”
Beiter serves as the Director of the Summer Institute for Human Rights and Genocide Studies in Buffalo and the Regional Education Coordinator for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He was selected to attend this conference because of the website co-founded, IamSyria.org, a non-profit media campaign that seeks to educate the world of the Syrian Conflict by “creating empathy for the Syrian people and provide teachers with resources on how to teach the content.”
IAmSyria.org receives about 3,000-4,000 hits a month from teachers around the world.
“We thought we’d get a few hits and by and large, we did it primarily for ourselves,” said Beiter. “Lo and behold, five years in, the bittersweet factor of it —it’s the number one hit on Google when you search teaching about Syria.”
The week after returning from the conference, the school district’s Human Rights Club participated in a “Walk for Syria” which raised $800 for the International Rights Committee. The Human Rights Group is the largest student club in the middle and high school, with an active membership of approximately 45 students at each meeting.
“What you put in is what you get out,” said Beiter. “Two out of three of our past valedictorians are now international relations majors at top universities around the country. “
In other news, on behalf of the School Board, Village of Springville Superintendent of Public Works, Kenneth Kostowniak, addressed the Department of Transportation about the need to install a high-visibility crosswalk on Route 39 and Newman. After a review of the area, the Department of Transportation agreed, and the project will move forward in the year ahead. The board will be notified of implementation closer to the date.
Jenny Sullivan was voted in as the Erie County Association of School Boards Representative to the Budget/Finance Team, which was vacant due to the resignation of Garrett English, and David Chambers was appointed substitute Business Official on an as-needed basis.
The board was presented with proposed budget deadlines for the upcoming year with the plan is to have a budget ready for the board to adopt by the April 3 meeting. The April 17 Board Meeting was changed to the 18th to accommodate the 2017 BOCES Annual Meeting.
The following fundraising activity requests were approved:
• Seventh grade “Kids Can Make a Difference” sponsored a nickel challenge to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association.
• Colden Elementary School Student Council sponsored collection of change to benefit the SPCA of Erie County.
• High School Musical Society sponsored sale of Babcia’s Pierogis to benefit the production of “Little Shop of Horrors” purchase of a plant prop.
• Middle School Student Services and Human Rights Club sponsored ‘Kind Coins Campaign’ to benefit a project aimed toward building a new school and peace center in Quetta, Pakistan.
• The startup of a chess club at the Middle School as of December 2016 with Maggie Janik as the volunteer club advisor.
The Board also approved the Memorandum of Agreement between the District and the Springville Faculty Association regarding 105(h) accounts and an Agreement between the District and the Village of Springville inter-municipal agreement regarding fuel distribution.
James Bialasik was appointed as the High School Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) Coordinator. And the Board approved a joint request to apply to Section VI to combine the Springville-GI and West Valley Central School Districts for athletic participation in Indoor Track and Field for the 2017-18 school year. Approximately 10 students from West Valley have showed interest at this time.
The next board meeting will be held on Monday, Jan. 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the High School Library Media Center located at 290 North Buffalo Street, Springville and will be a workshop meeting and board retreat.