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Tips and reminders for a successful school year

On Board Online • September 4, 2017

MaryEllen Elia
Commissioner of Education

I hope students in your school district were among the more than two million children across the state who avoided the "summer slide" by participating in summer reading programs at public libraries. This is one of many statewide initiatives of the State Education Department.

People are often surprised to learn the vastness of the scope of the department's work. Our stated mission is "to raise the knowledge, skill, and opportunity of all the people in New York."


In book, Rochester board member seeks to redefine the term 'hero'

On Board Online • September 4, 2017

By George Basler
Special Correspondent

As a child growing up, Van White and his brother would spend countless hours drawing their own comic books featuring heroic characters created from their own imaginations - Afroman and The Fly.

Now White is president of the Rochester Board of Education, but he hasn't lost his passion for writing about heroism. He has self-published a book for young readers called HEROES. His subjects don't wear capes or masks. Instead they're what White calls "everyday heroes" - teachers, firefighters and caregivers -who can have a big impact on others.


While TRS rate drops, health costs could be next budgetary headache

On Board Online • August 14, 2017

By Paul Heiser
Senior Research Analyst

Want to start the new school year with some good news? School districts will see a decrease in their contribution rates toward the Teachers' Retirement System (TRS) for the 2017-18 school year.

But there is bad news as well: Health insurance rates are continuing to climb.

TRS contributions and health insurance premiums are both significant components of school districts' annual budgets.


Students engaged as teacher wins big on 'Jeopardy!'

On Board Online • August 14, 2017

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

The answer is: This five-time "Jeopardy!" champion's recent performance earned him the popular TV quiz show's distinction as "The Final Streaker of Season 33."

The question: Who is Moravia High School social studies teacher Justin Vossler?

For more than a week in July, the Moravia school district community and "Jeopardy!" fans across the nation were riveted by the string of victories chalked up by Vossler, 28.


Government's job is to do the right thing

On Board Online • August 14, 2017

Susan Bergtraum
NYSSBA President

After reviewing the State Education Department's draft plan for complying with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), I've concluded that the plan has potential. The problem is that it goes beyond federal requirements and carries an uncertain price tag.

ESSA, the long-anticipated successor to No Child Left Behind, deals with how the state will evaluate schools that need improvement. The law is intended to offer states and school districts new flexibility on how to assess school performance.

To be sure, New York's proposed plan has many positive attributes.


Teacher absenteeism emerges as an issue in Syracuse schools

On Board Online • August 14, 2017

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

The Syracuse City School District, already in the midst of an effort to improve student attendance, has begun examining trends in faculty and staff attendance and considering ways to improve it.

In a report presented at a Board of Education work session in July, Superintendent Jaime Alicea outlined a study that showed particularly high rates of teacher sick-day absences on Fridays.


'Telemedicine' may be good Rx for schools

On Board Online • August 14, 2017

By Paul Heiser
Senior Research Analyst

Picture this: A fifth-grader tells her teacher she feels sick and it hurts to swallow. She visits the nurse's office in her school. The nurse establishes a video connection with the girl's family physician 10 miles away, allowing him to assess the girl's health and communicate with the child, the nurse and her mother. Digital images of her throat are taken and sent electronically to her doctor, who reviews the images and confirms the girl has strep throat. The doctor then calls in a prescription to the local pharmacy.

Welcome to the world of telemedicine, which uses telecommunication and information technology (e.g., computing imagery) to provide clinical health care from a remote location.


'Noncurriculum-related' and 'curriculum-related' clubs have different legal rights

On Board Online • August 14, 2017

Anthony S. Deluca
Law Offices of Thomas M. Volz, PLLC

The federal Equal Access Act guarantees certain school access rights to student clubs that are "noncurriculum-related" but does not confer the same rights on "curriculum-related" clubs. What's the difference between the two types of clubs?

This is a judgment call that school officials should make on a case-by-case basis with their school attorneys when questions of access arise. But court decisions provide guidance and examples of both kinds of clubs.

"A group directly relates to a school's curriculum if the group's subject matter is actually taught, or will soon be taught, in a regularly offered course; if that subject matter concerns the body of courses as a whole; or if participation in the group is required for a particular course or results in academic credit," according the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Board of Education of Westside Community Schools v. Mergens (1990).


In the coming school year, you may need a policy on kids without lunch money

On Board Online • August 14, 2017

By Courtney Sanik
Senior Policy Consultant

Countless numbers of school food service operations have an accounts payable problem: kids don't have their lunch money or a zero balance on their electronic account. But students need to eat, and their academic performance and health can suffer if they don't.

Don't be surprised if this issue comes before your school board. A unit of the U.S. Department of Agriculture called the Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) is now requiring school districts (as "school food authorities" for federal school food programs) to adopt policies addressing the charging of school meals and unpaid meal charges. This requirement takes effect in the 2017 - 2018 school year i.e., by July 1. Parents must be notified annually about the policy.


Faced with an Everest of state aid challenges, districts enlist Sherpas who know the terrain

On Board Online • August 14, 2017

Alan Wechsler
Special Correspondent


The William Floyd School District is one of the largest districts in Suffolk County. Named after a signer of the Declaration of Independence, William Floyd is one of the districts on Long Island that is most reliant on state aid: nearly half of its yearly $236 million budget comes from various state funds.

According to David Beggins, assistant superintendent for business, filing for state aid involves a mountain of paperwork, and it's easy for a district to fail to document everything it should.

That's why the district has been working with a NYSSBA business partner, School Aid Specialists, which specializes in state aid recovery.


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