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Supt. & BOE member, twin sisters, rescue swimmers on Lake Ontario

On Board Online • September 18, 2017

By Eric D. Randall
Senior Writer

Every summer, twin sisters Erin Gardner and Jennifer Gaffney-Goodnough invite friends to enjoy a day at a beach accessible only by boat at Sandy Island Beach State Park near Watertown. The former is a member of the South Jefferson school board and the latter is the new superintendent of the Sackets Harbor school district in Jefferson County.

On Thursday, Aug. 24, as they were setting up on the beach, a woman approached them and asked if they owned the boat anchored nearby. She said four children had gotten caught in a current near a channel that leads to Lake Ontario. An adult who was a strong swimmer went after them, but the current got her, too.


A hard look at soft skills

On Board Online • September 18, 2017

By Susan Bergtraum
NYSSBA President

If your school district is like most others, chances are you have teams of teachers and administrators poring over the results of last April’s grade 3-8 English language arts and math exams. Your leadership team understandably wants to know which students are proficient in those core subjects and which are not – and why. You want to know how your students’ academic skills stack up against peer districts. You await data about achievement gaps among different groups of students.

But what about your students’ “soft skills?” This term refers to personal attributes that enable us to successfully interact with others – traits such as integrity, communication, courtesy, responsibility, professionalism, flexibility, collaboration and teamwork. Do you know how your students are doing in those areas?

New data suggests that the public cares more about the teaching of soft skills than test scores. In August, Phi Delta Kappan (PDK) released the results of its latest annual national poll of the “Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools,” which it has been conducting since 1969. This year’s survey, for the first time, polled a random sample of New Yorkers and found that 85 percent of the 628 adult residents surveyed believe how well schools help students learn soft skills such as being cooperative, respectful of others and persistence in solving problems is an important factor in determining school quality.


PDK survey reveals strong support for school mental health services

On Board Online • September 4, 2017

By Eric D. Randall
Editor-in-Chief

Nine of 10 New Yorkers think public schools should provide mental health services for students who don't have access to such services elsewhere, according to a new poll by Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK). Eighty percent said they feel "strongly" that such services should be provided.

For 49 years, PDK has conducted an annual Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, which reports findings at a national level.


Paladino removed from Buffalo board

On Board Online • September 4, 2017

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia has removed former gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino from the Buffalo school board, citing his disclosure of confidential discussions that took place during an executive session in violation of the state Open Meetings Law.

Paladino, a real estate developer and member of the Buffalo board since 2013, indicated through his lawyer that he expects to appeal. His attorney called the removal "excessive."


Act locally, but think globally - for your kids

On Board Online • September 4, 2017

Timothy G. Kremer
NYSSBA Executive Director

As we educate young people and send them out into the world, we have to ask ourselves: What kind of world? Domestically we are polarized, and internationally there hasn't been such tension among the leading nations since the height of the Cold War. How can elected school board members demonstrate leadership as we develop the next generation?

The answer is that you have to treat the main thing as the main thing. That means working with your superintendent to develop the best educational program possible. At the same time, school board members are moral leaders who set the tone for their school districts. If you care about something and keep talking about it, other people in the district will care about it, too.

With that in mind, here are five priorities you should have this school year. These are issues in all school districts - upstate and downstate, wealthy and poor, big and small, relatively homogenous or very diverse - that we all must be prepared to address:

1. Refuse to tolerate bullying, discrimination or the spread of hate.


What you need to know, legally, if you hate the rise of hate

On Board Online • September 4, 2017

By the New York State Association of School Attorneys

The march of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia on Aug. 12 has called attention to Americans who are openly proud to be racist and raised questions about how everyone else (including President Donald Trump) should respond.

Overt racism appears to be an issue for public schools, too. Groups that track incidents involving hate symbols and racial slurs have reported an increase in bias-related incidents in school districts across the nation this year, including swastikas spray-painted on Syosset High School in August.

When incidents involving expressions of racial animus occur in schools in New York State, district leaders will be under scrutiny for how they react. This article will cover the relevant legal standards.


Test refusals steady at about 1 in 5

On Board Online • September 4, 2017

By Paul Heiser
Senior Research Analyst

About one in five students in grades 3 - 8 refused to take the English language arts (ELA) and math exams last April, according to figures released in August by the State Education Department (SED).

Although down slightly from last year, the proportion of students "opting out" of the tests has held steady since SED started reporting this information in 2015.


Elia: 'Progress takes time' on grade 3-8 test scores

On Board Online • September 4, 2017

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

Student scores on state math and English language arts tests continued a trend of gradual improvement in 2017, "but troubling gaps persist" between groups of students of differing economic, geographic and racial backgrounds, according to Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia.

"Real progress takes time," Elia said.

Overall, less than half of New York students who took the grades 3-8 tests achieved scores indicating they were "proficient" in math or English language arts (ELA).


Science summer school

On Board Online • September 4, 2017

By Barbara Bennett
Communications Associate

Several dozen Capital Region high school students took advantage of a free, three-day summer camp that focused on careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Taught by volunteer professionals who work in the high technology industry, students participated in a variety of hands-on activities that exposed them to the intricacies and critical thinking needed for STEM-related jobs.


To teach climate change, let data speak for itself

On Board Online • September 4, 2017

By Gayle Simidian
Research Analyst

Climate change is one hot topic - no pun intended.

Surveys suggest that one's belief about climate change often corresponds to one's political affiliation. A 2016 study by the Pew Research Center found that less than 10 percent of conservative Republicans think climate science is based on sound research "most of the time," compared to more than 50 percent of liberal Democrats.


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