Berkshire Union Free School District Superintendent Bruce Potter, Columbia-Greene Partnership Academy (“The Bridge”) Principal Dan Kalbfliesh, and School Improvement Coordinator Gregory Pasos spoke at the February 28 National Conference on Education in San Diego, California.
Their presentation “Bridge to a Brighter Future: An Unprecedented Three-District Partnership” examined how three superintendents (Bruce Potter, Maria Suttmeier of Hudson City School District, Dr. Kathleen Farrell, Catskill Central School District) combined resources, special legislation, and best practices to create a program that successfully serves students whose academic and behavioral struggles once put them on the brink of dropping out.
Pictured L to R: Greg Pasos, Dan Kalbfliesh, and Bruce Potter
Working closely with local school boards and multiple community stakeholders, these district leaders created “The Bridge” in Hudson and empowered its teachers to assist students who were off track. Today, 57 students are taking ownership of their future and becoming college and career ready. In the process, the program saved local taxpayers more than $600,000, the students regularly engage in community service projects, and many are working at a number of businesses in the community as part of their participation in Berkshire’s Workforce Development Program, which helps students prepare for college and careers.
“We want more students and more schools to benefit from our experience, so we showed other school superintendents how they can replicate the actions we took and become more effective as they collaborate with others to maximize resources, improve student achievement, and reduce costs at the same time,” Potter said.
Potter provided an overview of Berkshire Union Free School District and spoke about why area districts send some of their students to Berkshire and what the district has to offer, including dual-certified teachers in every class.
Dan Kalbfliesh discussed early results of student performance at The Bridge, since its opening in February 2014. “The students who came to The Bridge had a passing rate of 28 percent for the first two quarters in their home schools,” said Kalbfliesh. “That rate went to 58 percent for the last two quarters at The Bridge. After the first half of this academic year, students have a 64 percent passing rate.” Kalbfliesh said further results will be available after this academic year ends in June. “The bottom line is we have a unique opportunity to approach these students differently. Being a smaller environment, a family of sorts, we are constantly adapting as we learn what works and what doesn’t. The goal is always student success,” said Kalbfliesh.
Greg Pasos explained Berkshire’s model for academic support for all students. He told the school officials that schools need to do whatever it takes to help students become successful. “W cannot repeat things that failed students originally,” Pasos said. “The importance of relationship building can’t be stressed enough. It’s the little things that we do that have the biggest impact, such as greeting each student by name in the morning; following up when they don’t come to school, and monitoring their progress in academics and behavior,” said Pasos.