An Astounding Feat Of Memory
by Alex Brooks
The Hoosick Falls School Board began with a presentation by math teacher Kevin Weeden. He said for many years he has celebrated PI day in his classroom.[private] The U.S. Congress passed a resolution on March 9, 2009 declaring March 14 “PI day.” Weeden celebrates with a party in the classroom and challenges his students to memorize as many digits of PI as possible. The PI day web site has one million digits of PI on it. Over the years, Weeden has seen some of his students get their names on the list of those who have memorized the most digits of PI.
But this year his student Adrianna Sacilowski, currently in eighth grade, went farther than any of his students have before. She memorized 435 digits of PI, which puts her 94th on the all-time U.S. list of people who have memorized the most digits of PI. Weeden showed a video of her reciting all 435 digits, which was not short, but it was surprisingly interesting. She did not reel off the numbers quickly – she said them in little groups, sometimes pausing between groups of numbers, and sometimes pausing for such a long time that she seemed to be stuck. She occasionally said a wrong digit or skipped a digit, but in every case she immediately corrected herself and continued on flawlessly through 435 digits. Witnessing such a feat of memory, one tries to imagine what mnemonic device she might be using to accomplish it and comes up with no idea of how she does it.
When the video ended, Adrianna came to the front of the room and was applauded by the sizable audience.
The Board conferred tenure on 7th grade teacher Kimberly Brownell, Elementary Reading teacher Stacey Fallova, First Grade teacher Margaret Stevens, and Math Teacher Kevin Weeden. Fourth Grade teacher Lindsay Nash was given tenure at the April meeting.
The school administrators then gave a corsage and a hug to each of the six members of the school staff who are retiring at the end of this year, and Superintendent Ken Facin praised each of them and described the ways in which each one of them had been a great asset to the District. The retirees this year are Elementary Teacher Linda Bird, Special Education Teachers Sue Hale, Melodee James and Michelene Wilson, School Nurse Jan McGuire, and Office Aide Donna Trottier. The Board then took a break from its deliberations and held a reception for the retiring teachers, featuring strawberry shortcake and punch and other treats.
When the Board reconvened, Ken Facin gave his Superintendents Report. The first thing he spoke about is the high rate of students opting out of the 8th grade testing. He said this is problematic because there is no opt-out in grades 9 to 12 and students who opt out of 8th grade testing may have more problems when testing comes around in 9th grade. Facing said about 16% of eighth graders opted out. The BOCES average is 20%. In other schools across the state the opt-out rate has been as high as 60% and as low as 3%.
Facing said it is unfortunate that the State testing regime has lost the confidence of many parents and of the public in general. “We chew up testing companies,” said Facin. He recalled that it used to be CT MacGraw Hill, and then it was Pearson, and now it is Questar (an assessment company from Minnesota, not the local BOCES). The tests keep changing, so it is hard to prepare students for them.
Facin also said the survey of drug and alcohol use in high school that Rensselaer County does every other year was recently released. This survey was taken in March of 2016. Referring to results in the Hoosick Falls District, Facin said, “We have a problem.” He found particularly troubling the finding that 51% of students who drank alcohol in the last 30 days said their parents approved of their drinking.
The Board formed a committee to address the matter. Facing said it will be chaired by John Helrt and Stacy Vadney. Board members Andy Beaty, Joe Patire, and Rachel Boisvert volunteered to serve on the committee.
The Board accepted gifts from the Hoosick Falls Central PTA of $300 for Elementary Field Day, $500 for High School Art Trip, $350 for Elementary Art Trip, $1,000 for 8th Grade Class Trip, and $200 for Grand March at Prom.
The Board scheduled its organizational meeting for July 13 at 6 pm. The next regular meeting will be June 15 at 7 pm at the High School Library. [/private]