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New Education Leadership for New York State

It has been an exciting week for education in Albany.

On Tuesday, the New York State Board of Regents convened a special meeting to appoint MaryEllen Elia as the new Commissioner of Education.

MaryEllen Elia is a lifelong educator, and native New Yorker beginning her career as a social studies teacher at Sweet Home High School outside of Buffalo. In 1986, she relocated to the Tampa, Florida, where she spent nearly 30 years in the Hillsborough County School system. More than 10 of those years were spend as the superintendent of Hillsborough County Public Schools, the 8th largest school district in the nation.

Ms. Elia, the first woman to hold a permanent appointment in this role, and will begin her term July 6th.

Connect. Engage. Act.

The race to the end of the legislative session is on! Each house of the Legislature and the Executive have laid out their priorities and activity in the Capitol has taken on a frenzied pace. In the days and weeks ahead, NYSSBA’s governmental relations team will be sharing updates, information and calls to action.

Today, we are excited to announce a new tool that allows for NYSSBA members to send messages to lawmakers within seconds.  Engage (formerly CapWiz) will allow you to send letters directly to your elected officials on priority bills. We encourage you to take action and share these requests with anyone in your district.   

Education Investment Tax Credit

Last week Governor Cuomo unveiled the Parental Choice in Education Act, the latest piece of legislation to create tax credits in support of non-public schools. This bill would provide millions of dollars each year in the form of state tax credits to support donations to scholarship organizations, education funds and other education entities, as well as to support tuition for private and other sectarian schools.

NYSSBA statement on new education commissioner

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


FOR RELEASE: May 26, 2015

We congratulate MaryEllen Elia on her appointment as education commissioner. 

New York's public schools need a leader who can reconcile opposing views among stakeholders over controversial issues, navigate the political complexities of the legislative process, and work with the Board of Regents to forge cogent policies that will make New York's education system student-focused.

We are encouraged by the academic gains Ms. Elia helped bring about in Florida's Hillsborough County school system during her tenure as a teacher and administrator. We look forward to working with her.

Vecchio presented with the Inaugural NYSSBA Champion for Change Award

CONTACT: Al Marlin
(518) 783-3723 (desk) or (518) 527-6933 (cell)
FOR RELEASE: May 26, 2015


Robert Vecchio, school board president of the William Floyd Union Free School District in Suffolk County, was named the first-ever Champion for Change Award winner, an honor given by The New York School Boards Association (NYSSBA).

“The NYSSBA Champion for Change is a champion for children who fosters creative change that enriches educational opportunities and inspires other school board members to make similar or even greater contributions,” said NYSSBA President Lynne Lenhardt. “Bob Vecchio is a role model for future school board members.”

Vecchio has served on the William Floyd Union Free School District School Board since 2003 and as president for the past nine years. He is also a member of the Legislative and Executive Committee of the Nassau Suffolk School Board Association.


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.

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