End-of-Year Update from Superintendent Zehr

Dear Carmel Community,

It is hard to believe that we are already at the end of our 2020-2021 school year. While I have only been here for four months, so much has happened to get us to this point.

First, and foremost, thank you for an amazing and successful year during such an unprecedented time worldwide. We navigated as a team, shifted when needed, evaluated at every junction, and made it through, together. I commend the entire Carmel Central School District community for all we have accomplished this year! 

To our amazing teachers and staff, thank you. Thank you for all that you did, going above and beyond during a year that was anything but ordinary, to make this school year happen for our students. The recognition and words of thanks that have come in from the community for our teachers are plentiful and I know we can never thank you all enough.

Some moments of Carmel pride over the year include:

  • Seeing our students come together to celebrate their collective achievements. This week we will graduate 346 seniors from Carmel High School, along with students from our elementary schools and George Fischer Middle School who will be moving up, as well. Congratulations, Class of 2021!
  • Our ongoing engagement with the local community. Whether it was creating thank you cards for the first responders and veterans in the community, raising money for various charities, or lending a helping hand to community members in need, our District community showed up and made a difference.
  • Remarkable scholarly achievements from District students. We saw senior Rebecca Monge excel to the Top 40 of the prestigious Regeneron Science Talent Search. Our Future Business Leaders of America team competed at both the district and state levels and brought home several awards. Students from George Fischer Middle School explored emerging STEM topics like electric cards and artificial intelligence and were recognized for their intellectual curiosity at regional science fairs.
  • Successful seasons from our student-athletes. The girls varsity lacrosse team captured its league championship for the first time in school history. The boys varsity lacrosse team won its first sectional game, the first sectional win in our program’s history. Our baseball team won the league championship and became sectional champions for the first time in 31 years. Carmel High School track and field team members dominated with section winners in pole vault, the 800m and the 4x800m relay. Our girls varsity cross country team won the league championship for the first time in 15 years, and senior Katie Turk placed first, winning the league championship and regional championship races. Varsity boys golf won the league championship this year and team member Luke O’Grady Rogers placed sixth at sectionals, becoming the third male golfer in school history to make the all-state team. Our boys varsity soccer celebrated an undefeated regular season and won the league championship for the first time in school history. Carmel High School football tied for the best record in Class AA football this year with a 5-1 record.
  • An outpouring of musical and artistic talent and success. More than 90 students had their work featured in our virtual youth art month exhibit this year. We were recognized as a Best Community in Music for the eighth year in a row. Student-musicians hosted incredible virtual and live musical performances.

There were so many successes this year and we cannot wait to see all that is in store for the 2021-22 school year.

2021-2022 Budget & Federal Relief Funds
As you know from my email last week, the Board of Education has adopted a contingency budget for the 2021-22 school year. While it is not the outcome we had hoped for, the Board of Education and District administration are working to ensure all our students’ needs are met for the 2021-22 school year. Information about the contingency budget is available on the Budgets and Audits page of our website. Please know that our administrative team is available to answer any questions regarding the budget that you may have, so please do not hesitate to reach out.

As we move forward, we hope to engage with and involve the community in the creation of the 2022-23 school year budget. While 2022-23 seems so far off right now, we know there is much work to be done, and our goal is to better address the community’s expectations.

As you may know, the District will be receiving federal relief funds from the American Rescue Plan. We are required to submit a plan for anticipated spending of these funds for approval. The deadline for submitting plans was extended until June 30. We await feedback from the New York State Department of Education on our submitted plans and will send additional updates on proposed expenditures for those funds as we learn more through the approval process in the coming weeks.

Educating our children in an ever-changing world remains the highest priority for our District. As we have affirmed in our District’s vision statement, we embrace individuality and opportunities for students to discover and pursue their passions and ignite a desire to learn. Our Board of Education is committed to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive learning environment where all students feel safe, included, welcomed, and accepted, and experience a sense of belonging and academic success, as stated in our policy 0105. Racism, discrimination and marginalization of any people or groups of people, whether intentional or not, has no place in our schools or our District.

Our goal is simply to prepare our students for a successful future where they can have a positive impact on the global community. Like all school districts in New York State, the Carmel Central School District is charged with implementing “culturally responsive sustaining education” and policies to advance “diversity, equity and inclusion.” Critical race theory is not part of and never has been part of the Carmel Central School District curriculum.

There is no agenda other than ensuring that the students of our District receive an excellent education with an emphasis on our six Cs – collaboration, compassion, critical thinking, citizenship, communication and creativity. We strive to provide a high-quality educational program in accordance with New York State standards. Our goal is to ensure that, at the end of the day, our students graduate with the tools to succeed in their chosen professions.

As we prepare our young learners to go out into the world, it is inevitable that controversial subjects will arise. It is our job to address these issues as part of the student learning experience. We recognize that there may be opposing views on some subjects and endeavor to maintain a safe space where differing viewpoints are respected, and students can learn how to think critically and form their own opinions. Our Board policy on teaching controversial issues (Policy 4810) has been a pillar of expectations for our teachers and students on these topics for more than 20 years.

Fall 2021 Reopening
We are awaiting guidance and expectations from both the New York State Department of Health and New York State Department of Education. Our Fall 2021 Reopening Committee, comprising parents and staff, has been an important partner in our ongoing discussions and early preparation. We are ready to address any directives from our state partners and will provide more information in the coming weeks.

Looking Ahead to 2021-22
As we look ahead to the fall, there is much to celebrate. When I joined the community a few months ago, I knew that CCSD was an amazing school district and I have seen that first-hand in my time here. I see Carmel’s 6Cs and mission in action every day. Can we be better? Of course. 

As we move forward, my hope for this District is to be better than we are today. 

I hope to see our District collaborate more effectively, demonstrate compassion and kindness, think critically and practice self-reflection, become better citizens, communicate effectively, engage with the community and be better at active listening. 

In short, my hope is to be not just better, but the best. I look forward to realizing these goals with all of you.

Have a great summer! We look forward to seeing you back in the fall.


Mary-Margaret Zehr

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