Students Return To Maple Grove High School

Morning dawned crisp and sunny with a hint of fall in the air – a perfect day to start the school year. Just before 7 a.m., students and parents trudged down their driveways juggling knapsacks and cameras to wait for the yellow bus.

In the office, Julie Verdonik prepared for her first day as the new principal of Maple Grove High School, but there were other firsts on Thursday: The day marked the last “first” day for seniors who will be graduating in June.

Keith Carolus, co-president of the Student Council and a senior at Maple Grove, wasn’t especially wistful about his last year, but was full of ideas for the coming months.

“We’d really like to get a school newspaper started this year,” Carolus said. “We’re thinking of calling it ‘Dragon’s Tale.'”

Also on his to-do list was inviting inspirational speakers to address the school, planning for homecoming, and developing more leaders in the student community.

Carolus, who hopes to study mechanical engineering in college next year, is also looking forward to fundraising for the Water Project, a nonprofit organization adopted by the Student Council that helps to provide clean water to communities in sub-Saharan Africa. Carolus, and co-president Caroline Benson, weren’t wasting any time: They have a telephone conference scheduled with the organization’s representatives on Tuesday.

Sitting bravely in the lobby was eighth-grade student Makali Southwell, who just moved to the Bemus Point area from Jamestown. While lamenting not knowing many people, she was looking forward to “new teachers and new grades.” The good news was that her locker was close to her homeroom.

Waiting to greet incoming students arriving by bus, Verdonik noted that the school had “two very good first days,” referring to a meeting held yesterday between teachers and members of the local business and educational community to discuss college and career-ready skills.

“Our focus this year is to make sure we’re aligned with the Common Core and to prepare our kids for college, trade schools and careers,” Verdonik said. “We need to make sure we’re partnering with our local businesses and educators. They’re great resources.”

Verdonik is planning to adopt some of the principles from STEM education – an acronym for the fields of study in the categories of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The term is most often used in addressing education policy, but it seeks to improve the nation’s competitiveness in technology development by strengthening student’s skills in various disciplines.

“A STEM program,” Verdonik said, “will bridge the classroom experiences with the out of school opportunities. This program will also provide a variety of opportunities for students to research and better understand opportunities that are available to them after high school. It is very important that we build partnerships with the community in order to make sure this program is successful.”

Verdonik also hopes to include language arts, fine arts and foreign language in the program.

In addition to new students and a new principal, The Bemus Point Central School District recently welcomed Michael Mansfield – appointed last July as district superintendent to replace Jacqueline Latshaw. Also welcoming students today was Sterling Stearns, newly appointed assistant vice principal.