Salamanca City Central School District’s Superintendent Robert Breidenstein traded in his hard hat for a pair of giant scissors last Friday as the district celebrated the opening of the new STEAM addition at Salamanca High School.
“I am not just pleased, I am overjoyed that we are finally at this point in time,” said Breidenstein. Thirteen months ago, construction began on the 14,448 SF addition as part Phase I of the $27 million Capital Improvement Project.
“Following a vote in 2015 that didn’t go so well, with the community’s help, we revisited the idea of what our buildings need to look like and how we can transition into the 21st century,” Breidenstein said.
Eager school district administrators, Board of Education members, representatives from the Seneca Nation, city and state as well as students and staff gathered to see the ribbon cutting.
Continuing the theme of 21st century learning, two student-operated robots were chosen to have the honor of running through the ribbon, officially opening the new facility.
The STEAM addition is just one piece to the district’s continued commitment to advancing their student’s education. Four years ago, the district was identified as a priority school with a graduation rate at 60%.
Mark Beehler, Assistant Superintendent for Academic Services said, “We made a conscious decision to gather our teachers, our students, get help from our secondary leaders, community members, parents and develop a comprehensive education plan that did not simply teach students subjects, like math and ELA, but instead taught children. This meant engaging them in meaningful work.”
That plan prompted the district to make a heavy investment in STEAM curriculum (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) that foster transferable skills valuable to nearly every career path.
As a result, the high school graduation rate has risen to 84% and the graduation rate of Native American students has doubled to match the general student population. The number of students earning regents level diplomas has tripled too.
“Aligned with our comprehensive education plan was the construction of the space we are now in,” Beehler described, “this includes a technology room, a robotics laboratory, CADD room, a 3D printing room, a large makers space, science lab and classroom, and a new art room. This new physical space will allow our growing success to incubate at an even faster pace and ensure success for the future.”
Seneca Nation Tribal Councilor Arlene Bova shared her excitement for this project and came up with another acronym for what STEAM means to her.
“Salamanca Team, Everyone’s Aiming to Move,” Bova said. “That’s what we do here. We’re finally at that point where we’re moving.”
Several city and state government representatives were in attendance to show their support for the district and the importance of STEAM education.
The Salamanca STEAM Center of Excellence is scheduled to open to students and staff following their holiday break at the end of the month.
As part of the ongoing Capital Project, Seneca Intermediate School had a new main office built and Prospect Elementary School will have their main office and library completely renovated.
Improvements aren’t close to over at Salamanca either, a $34.7 million project was approved last May and will include a five classroom addition at Prospect, improvements to the High School’s athletic facilities and renovations to Veterans Memorial Park, an important cultural park to the community.