Yorktown Superintendent Shares Inspiration, Well Wishes For New Year

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Ralph Napolitano inspires people to be positive and gives well wishes for the new year. Photo Credit: Contributed

Dear Parents and Community Members,

I hope that this finds all of you well. I wanted to wish you a very happy, healthy and peace-filled new year. 

At a recent holiday gathering, the host began telling a story about the Peanuts gang. As I have always been a big fan of Charles Schulz, I listened very attentively as he shared the following story.

One day, Lucy was feeling extremely grumpy and upset. Charlie Brown arrived on the scene and immediately tried to cheer her up through kind words, good wishes and compliments.  Needless to say, it did not work. Lucy immediately turned on Charlie Brown, reprimanded him, ordered him out of the house and called him a blockhead as he exited.

A short time later, Lucy strolled through the neighborhood and came across Schroeder who was busy playing a piece on the piano.  Lucy asked him if he considered her a nice person. Schroeder did not look up from the piano as he simply declared,“No.” and went on playing. 

As Lucy continued her stroll, she ran into her brother Linus and asked him the same question, “Am I nice?”  Without any prolonged consideration Linus responded, “To the contrary, you are one of the nastiest people I know.”

Within a short time Lucy saw Charlie Brown, also known as "The Blockhead," again and asked the same question, “Am I nice?” By this time, he had just about had it with Lucy’s antics, so he turned on her yelling, “Are you kidding, you are the complete opposite of nice. You are oppositional, thoughtless, rude, crude and abrasive.” 

Charlie walked away, leaving Lucy to consider his words. Watching him walk off and thinking about the comments she had heard from Schroeder, Linus and Charlie Brown, Lucy shrugged and said aloud, “What do any of them know anyway?”

The host told the story to make a poignant point about the new year and why most new year’s resolutions fail.  He said it is the Lucy in all of us that causes failures in our resolutions. Our failure to self-reflect, our failure to see ourselves as others see us, our failure to really want to raise our own personal bars toward becoming better people causes resolutions to fail. I truly enjoyed his story and the words that he shared through Schulz’s story.

His conversation about Charles Schulz and the Peanuts gang made me think about another Charles who wrote a similar sentiment, probably one hundred years earlier than Charles Schulz. 

The Charles I reference is Charles Dickens. In one of his classic works, "A Christmas Carol,"  Dickens depicts his main character, Scrooge, as a nasty, thoughtless, unkind man who has little interest in his fellow human beings or the plight of the less fortunate.  However, unlike Lucy, he takes advantage of the opportunity to reflect upon his past,  think about his present situation  and  consider what the future holds in store for him if he does not change. 

Through self reflection, Scrooge transforms via a complete metamorphosis and he becomes a better friend and neighbor than anyone has ever known.  Through his transformation, the world becomes a better, kinder place where his presence makes a difference in the lives of everyone he encounters.

This new year, I hope that you will have the opportunity reflect for yourself regarding where you have been, where you are and where you are going. I hope that you will have the opportunity to think about how others see you and how you would like to be seen.

Finally, I hope that your thoughtful reflection will help you to make the kind of resolutions that are significant and will make a difference for you, your family, your neighbors and your fellow human beings.

One of our fourth-grade teachers, Betsy Flor, gave her students a very thoughtful and reflective holiday gift.  Each student was given a jar and asked to think about three wonderful things that occur each day from Jan. 1, 2014 until Dec. 31, 2014. 

The students were charged to write these things down on slips of paper and place them in their jars.  The long-term goal is to fill the jars with wonderful events, experiences, words and actions that made the children feel good, important to others,  successful, happy and productive. The children are already working on their assignments. 

Flor wanted to give her students an opportunity to reflect on all that is good in their lives and to think about all of the good that they bring to the lives of other people  In a world that consistently focuses on the negative, I think that this is a very important challenge.  Whether you start your own mason jar project, or simply reflect on how you resolve to make a difference in the lives of others, I wish you well in keeping your resolutions.  I intend to keep every single one of mine. Brad Paisley once said, “Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one.” I hope that your 2014 book will be everything that you want it to be.

Looking back on December, I was inspired by all of the wonderful concerts that were performed by our students in all of our schools.  Whether chorus, band or orchestra, our talented music educators produce the very best in our excellent students.  The concerts are always clever, always varied and always engaging.  I am so impressed by all of the fantastic performances; our music program is absolutely amazing. 

All concerts are scheduled throughout the month of January on the educational access television stations:  Cablevision Ch. 18 and FiOS Ch. 27.  You can also access the concert archives via the district website at www.yorktown.org and via each of the school websites.

During the month of December, the committee that is exploring full day kindergarten (FDK) accomplished many of the tasks that have been assigned to them by the Board of Education.  From the district homepage, one can access a website which outlines the work of the committee and progress to date.  This includes a presentation that I shared with our staff in December. 

The Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) is planning a presentation for parents and the general community on Wednesday, Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. at the Mildred E. Strang Middle School cafeteria, where I will share the presentation and current efforts. 

We are working on a February date to invite the community-at-large to the final presentation.  I hope that many of you will take an opportunity to attend one of these presentations.  This website also links to Board of Education meeting videos where full-day kindergarten is discussed.

Nearly all parents and guardians have access to the district-wide eSchool data parent and student portals.  At the primary level, grades K-5, this includes the transportation guide and most current report cards.  At the secondary level, grades 6-12, this includes the transportation guide, most current report cards, student profile, schedule, transcript and grade book.  The district aspires to be more communicative and environmentally conscientious, and the portals been well-received by students in grades 6-12, parents and staff.

The winter sports season is well underway and the teams are practicing, competing and enjoying the opportunities that athletics provides for participating students.  Please know that you are always welcome to attend a game or competition; the weekly schedule is available from the YHS homepage at www.yhs.yorktown.org.

There are many wonderful events coming up in 2014.  Please check the district calendar to view the events that you may find enjoyable and interesting to attend.  We appreciate your support.  Again, my very best wishes for a wonderful new year.  Stay warm, stay well and stay happy! 

With warm regards,
Dr. Ralph Napolitano

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