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99 percent of school budgets approved

On Board Online • May 25, 2015

By Paul Heiser
Senior Research Analyst

Voters approved nearly 99 percent of school spending plans statewide.

Among 676 budgets put up for vote on May 19, 666 passed - an approval rate of 98.7 percent. That does not include the Hempstead school district in Nassau County, the status of whose budget was still unknown at press time.

Budget success was uniform across the state, with no region having less than a 94 percent approval rate, and five regions having budget passage rates of 100 percent.

In Dutchess County's Millbrook school district, 71 percent of voters gave thumbs up to a budget with a tax levy increase of 1.98 percent. "Millbrook, and especially the superintendent, do a great job with the money they are given," Millbrook resident Perry Hartswick told the Poughkeepsie Journal. "All of the money in this budget is necessary to better the education here."

Regents fret over APPR issues as SED staff prepare regulations

On Board Online • May 25, 2015

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

Members of the Board of Regents wondered aloud at their May meeting about whether the governor and Legislature have left them any opportunity to improve New York's newest teacher evaluation system.

Over hours of discussion, several Regents urged a total overhaul or replacement of the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) system approved by the governor and Legislature as part of the 2015-16 budget.

A few members even suggested refusing to carry out the technical tasks assigned by lawmakers, citing insufficient time and authority to make meaningful improvements to the latest iteration of APPR. Regent Josephine Finn of Sullivan County likened the assignment to being asked to turn on the oven after someone else already has chosen the recipe and mixed up the cake batter. "We're policy makers, and if you've done everything and left me this much room, you have tied my hands," she said.

Ultimately, however, the Regents gave staff a go-ahead signal to continue their technical work on the new APPR law, which is on track for a vote at the Regents' June 15-16 meetings. Legislation requires the Education Department and the Regents to carry out a number of technical tasks, such as setting weights and scoring ranges for teacher observations and student performance measures, by the end of June.

Six life-changing experiences for students

On Board Online • May 25, 2015

Lynn L. Lenhardt
NYSSBA President

Soon we will be graduating about 160,000 students and sending nearly half of them to 4-year colleges and universities. As they move forward with their education, what experiences will have the most influence on their living happy, fulfilling lives?

There is some impressive research on this subject, and you may find the results surprising. Like me, you may see implications for high schools.

The Gallup organization has asked Americans about their happiness for decades. Since 2008, it has been surveying 1,000 Americans every day about six kinds of well-being, such as financial ("I have an enough money to do everything I want to do"), social ("My friends and family give me positive energy every day") and purpose ("I like what I do every day.") Other Gallup surveys ask questions about other forms of happiness, such as career satisfaction.

In a project co-sponsored by Purdue University and Lumina Foundation (which is committed to increasing the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates and other credentials to 60 percent by 2025), Gallup interviewers asked 30,000 college graduates who have participated in various Gallup polls to answer questions about their college experiences. Then they looked for patterns.

Beginning June 15, districts may apply for Smart Schools Bond Act money

On Board Online • May 25, 2015

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

The State Education Department has posted guidance for districts planning to upgrade technology or facilities with Smart Schools Bond Act money, and the department expects to open an online portal for applications by June 15.

SED is responsible for administering funds from the $2 billion borrowing proposition approved by state voters in November 2014. Another $5 million allocated in the 2014-15 state budget for technology purchases also is available to Special Act school districts (state-supported schools for the blind and deaf and private special education schools).

The department staff is developing tools and resources to help districts make decisions about how to spend their Smart Schools allocations, Charles Szuberla, Acting Deputy Commissioner for P-12 Education, told the Regents at their May meeting.

To be eligible for funding, school districts are required to link their technology purchase plans to long-range educational plans, Szuberla said. Districts also are required to consult with stakeholders, including parents, teachers, students, community members and non-public schools, in developing their investment plans.

Flanagan ascends to Senate leader

On Board Online • May 25, 2015

Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

Senator John J. Flanagan, who has chaired the Senate Education Committee since 2011, was elected to the Senate's top leadership post to succeed his fellow Long Island Republican, Dean Skelos, who stepped down on May 11.

Skelos, who will continue to represent his Nassau County district on Long Island's South Shore, resigned after his arrest on federal corruption charges. Flanagan, 54, represents a Suffolk County district on the North Shore.

To reduce waste and fuel science lessons, more schools build compost piles

On Board Online • May 25, 2015

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

Before heading home each day, a small crew of North Country high school students pulls a cart loaded with lunch scraps a few-dozen yards out to a set of concrete bins behind the school.

The students, from the Colton-Pierrepont school district, record the weight and volume of the day's left-over fruit pits and peels, bread crusts, salad greens, vegetables and more before dumping it all into one of the bins. Most days, the take is about 15 lbs. - more if whole apples were on the menu.

Before shoveling on a covering layer of wood chips, the students churn the mixture a bit. To be sure the material underneath remains warm enough for the unseen micro-organisms to keep working, they spear the pile with a thermometer and note the temperature.

Colton-Pierrepont is among a growing number of New York school districts, large and small, that are composting organic material to reduce the volume of waste sent to landfills. Composting initiatives fuel countless science lessons and, teachers say, promote environmental stewardship and sustainability.

OCR issues guidance on responsibilities of Title IX coordinators

On Board Online • May 25, 2015

By Jeffrey Mongelli
Senior Staff Attorney

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) recently issued an updated Title IX Resource Guide and an accompanying "Dear Colleague" letter that underscore the importance of designating, training and supporting Title IX coordinators to ensure compliance with that law.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination based on sex in education programs, athletics and other activities in schools that receive federal funds. If any part of a school district receives any federal funding for any purpose, all of the operations of the school district are covered by Title IX.

According to the Dear Colleague letter, OCR has found that "some of the most egregious and harmful Title IX violations occur when a recipient fails to designate a Title IX coordinator or when a Title IX coordinator has not been sufficiently trained or given the appropriate level of authority to oversee the recipient's compliance with Title IX."

This article highlights some of the key issues and recommendations discussed in the two documents.

STEM needs to be STEAM

On Board Online • May 25, 2015

By Wayne Rogers
Area 6 Director

While at the National School Boards Association Convention in Nashville in March, I was given the opportunity to tour Nissan's Smyrna plant. It was an eye-opening experience to see the cooperation and coordination involved in a facility that employs over 7,000 people and produces more than 550,000 vehicles each year. I was awed by the system that began with cutting and pressing sheets of steel and ended with showroom vehicles ready for the road.

The demands of employers like Nissan are a big part of the K-12 emphasis on STEM - science, technology, engineering and math. Many educators like to add an "A" for arts, making the acronym STEAM.

I want to share with you how a team of teachers in Malone Middle School has been approaching STEAM. The efforts began a year ago, when staff visited Pine Grove Middle School in East Syracuse-Minoa School District. They liked what they saw and soon Malone science, math, social studies and English language arts teachers formed a STEAM team. (In Malone, the "S" in STEAM stands for not just science, but science and social studies.)

One of the projects for the year centered around creating a business marketing sap from the stately sugar maple trees on the middle school grounds within the Village of Malone. I asked teacher George Rogers (no relation) how this project embodies the multidisciplinary STEAM and team concept. He noted that one unique aspect involved students writing resumes and applying for jobs within the "company" as either accountants, engineers, marketing specialists, research and development staff, data collectors, evaporator operators, or reporters.

School Boards Association reports that 98.6 percent of school budgets pass

David Albert, NYSSBA
(518) 783-3716 or (518) 320-2221 cell
On Twitter: @nyschoolboards


FOR RELEASE: May 20, 2015

New York State voters approved an overwhelming 98.6 percent of school district budgets on Tuesday, May 19, according to an analysis by the New York State School Boards Association.

“Today is a good day for public education. School districts put forth budgets that will provide students in their communities with high-quality educational opportunities next year,” said NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer. “The combination of sound budgeting by school boards and a healthy state aid increase allowed many school districts to restore programs and positions while having a negligible impact on their local tax levies.”

Initial statewide results gathered by NYSSBA indicate voters passed 654 school district budgets. The number of budgets defeated was nine. NYSSBA was still awaiting results for 13 districts.

Poll: Board Members Expect Low Voter Turnout

(518) 783-3716 or (518) 320-2221 cell
On Twitter: @nyschoolboards


FOR RELEASE: May 18, 2015

An overwhelming majority of school board members (88 percent) believe voter turnout in this year's school budget vote and school board elections will be at or below previous years, according to a poll by the New York State School Boards Association.

Only 12 percent think voter turnout will be higher than usual.

The survey results are consistent with recent voting trends. The number of votes cast has steadily decreased in each of the three years since the state's tax cap was introduced in 2012. Overall, the number of votes cast has decreased nearly 20 percent since the first year of the tax cap.

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