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Poll: School board members prefer diminished federal role in education

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

FOR RELEASE:
July 30, 2015

 

The federal government should play a less active role in how schools evaluate teachers, test students or adopt learning standards, according to a poll of school board members. 

"As Congress debates reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, most school board members across the state would like to see the federal government take a less aggressive role in public education at the state and local levels," said NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer. 


School board members eye classroom instruction, school leadership as keys to improving struggling schools

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

FOR RELEASE:
July 20, 2015

 

Most school board members believe improving classroom instruction and school building management will be the most effective options available to a receiver to improve a low performing school, according to a recent poll by the New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA). 

State law now requires school districts to appoint "receivers" to assume managerial and operational control of 144 struggling schools for the 2015-16 school year. Receivers have the authority to make sweeping staffing changes, expand instructional time, and override decisions of the board of education.


Cuomo demands SED boost effort to protect transgender students

On Board Online • July 20, 2015

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has resumed his needling of state education officials with a public letter accusing them of failing in their responsibility to protect transgender students from harassment and violence.

In a letter released by his press office on Sunday, June 28, the governor expressed "outrage over the State Education Department's failure to implement and monitor the provisions of the Dignity for All Students Act relating to gender identity and gender expression."

Responding in a public radio interview, Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said supporting local efforts to protect transgender students and all potential victims of bullying is a high priority for the department. But she also said New York's elected leaders have been slow to provide the funding that would help SED hire staff necessary to do that work.

"I say this from the bottom of my heart," Tisch said on WCNY's Capitol Pressroom. "It would be very helpful if people would stop whacking the State Education Department at every opportunity and dug in and helped fund the department and worked with the department in ways that allow the department to be a very useful resource for the state of New York."


NYSSBA endorses VisdomK12 as school collaboration tool

On Board Online • July 20, 2015

By Eric D. Randall
Editor-in-Chief

"Crowdsourcing" is coming to schools in New York State, thanks to a recent NYSBBA decision.

The Board of Directors voted unanimously at its June meeting to endorse VisdomK12, the developer of software for collaborative decision-making.

The technology produces a series of color-coded "voice maps" that give school and district officials an efficient way to bring the perspective of more people into a variety of education-related decisions, said David Brake, chief executive of The Grandview Group, parent company of VisdomK12.

He said it's an example of "crowdsourcing" - the practice of obtaining ideas or services by inviting contributions from a large group of people or the general public. The word was coined in 2006 by Jeff Howe, a contributing editor to Wired magazine.


Boardsmanship for beginners

On Board Online • July 20, 2015

Timothy G. Kremer
NYSSBA Executive Director

This month, school boards are welcoming 596 newly-elected school board members into the fold, according to NYSSBA's crackerjack Information Technology and Project Planning Department. That's both good news and not-so-good news for school districts. The good news is that new members bring new energy and new perspectives to school boards. The bad news is that changing just one member means the district has a brand new board. It takes a lot of work to evolve from a group of total or partial strangers into a high-functioning team.

Having worked for organizations that support the work of school boards since 1979, I fully recognize that being a school board member is not easy. The political environment is both complex and overwhelming. The potential for making unpopular board decisions is greater than ever; in fact, deliberations can get downright ugly. School boards get blamed for things out of their control, and they fail to get credit for things for which they are responsible.

Despite these challenges, I know a lot of fully-engaged, happy school board members. They tend to be on board-superintendent teams that operate in a principled, professional manner. Frankly, I am always amazed at what a governance team can accomplish when every member of the team subscribes to the realization that effective leadership is grounded in the art of collaboration.

How can board members make a difference, both as individuals and as a group? Here are some general lessons on "boardsmanship" that I have learned along the way:


What didn't pass in Legislature as significant as what did

On Board Online • July 20, 2015

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

The state Legislature last month wrapped up a relatively restrained 2015 session that featured a mixed bag of results for NYSSBA. The session was most notable, in part, for the actions lawmakers declined to take.

"We thank lawmakers for rejecting the education investment tax credit and avoiding an increase in the charter school cap," NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer said. "Both proposals would have been damaging to the state's public schools, which serve the vast majority of students."

The closing weeks of the legislative session were marked by intense lobbying surrounding the proposed tax credit, which would have provided new incentives for donations to private schools and others at an estimated cost of $150 million annually. Instead, the Legislature approved payment of $250 million to reimburse private schools for mandated services provided in prior years.

Proposals from the governor and the Senate to raise the charter cap by as many as 100 schools ultimately were replaced by modifications that keep the cap at 460. The changes effectively expand the number of charters available in New York City by about 25 by making a limited number of charters from now-closed schools available again and shifting a few charters from outside NYC region into NYC.


Questions and answers on receivership

On Board Online • July 20, 2015

By Pilar Sokol
Deputy General Counsel

The Education Transformation Act of 2015, enacted into law as part of the state budget, amended the Education Law to institute new requirements regarding the manner in which school districts appoint educators to probationary terms and grant them tenure, evaluate classroom teachers and school principals, and discipline tenured teachers and administrators.

However, the act also provided for the take over and restructuring of struggling and persistently struggling schools through a new school receivership law. The Board of Regents adopted regulations for the implementation of that law, at their June 2015 meeting.

This article offers some basic answers to frequently asked questions that are starting to emerge as school districts begin to more closely examine the requirements of the receivership law. The information below is based on the language of both the statute and the related regulations.

School districts should be aware that the receivership regulations were adopted on an emergency basis, and are subject to a 45 day public comment period that expires August 24, 2015. In response to any such comments, the Board of Regents might make changes to the June 2015 emergency regulations.


District must provide union with updated list of unit members' home addresses

On Board Online • July 20, 2015

By Kimberly Fanniff
Senior Staff Attorney

A school district must honor a union's request for updated information on the addresses of its members, according to a ruling by the state Public Employment Relations Board (PERB).

Under the terms of a contract, the district provides a form entitled "application for membership" completed by new employees for the union. Given the passage of time, the union requested updated information on names, addresses and telephone numbers of its unit members.

After the district declined to provide the information, the union asserted this was a violation of the Taylor Law. An administrative law judge's (ALJ) determined the district had engaged in an improper practice by refusing to provide the requested information.

In Service Employees International Union, Local 200United v. Utica City School District, PERB considered the district's challenge to the ALJ's ruling. The district argued that the union's failure to explain the need and relevance of the requested information negated its obligation to respond to the request. The district also argued that responding to the request would be burdensome and to provide the information would violate the statutory right to privacy of the employees.


Albany continues focus on East Ramapo issues

On Board Online • July 20, 2015

By Cathy Woodruff
Staff Writer

Although bills to install a state monitor in the East Ramapo school district failed in the recent legislative session, lawmakers who backed the idea aren't giving up on it. Sen. David Carlucci and Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, both Democrats, are calling on state education officials to more strenuously assert oversight authority.

A bill that included power to override school board decisions passed the Assembly but didn't reach a vote in the Senate. A compromise offered by Carlucci and endorsed by East Ramapo leaders would have provided more modest powers and allocated $5 million to help restore programs and services, but it did not reach the floor in either house.

Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch supported the Assembly bill, sponsored by Ellen Jaffe (D-Pearl River), and deplored the Senate's inaction. As lawmakers left Albany, they left East Ramapo students "twisting in the wind for another year," she said. "It's a year these children cannot get back."

Two reports recently released by the State Education Department said the district has growing problems serving students with limited English proficiency and has done a poor job of planning for improvement in several areas: student achievement, fiscal management, professional development and relationships with members of the community.


NYSSBA announces new hires, Policy Services promotions

On Board Online • July 20, 2015

By Jeffrey S. Handelman
Deputy Director of Administration

With the retirement last month of Linda Bakst from her position as NYSSBA's deputy director of policy services, executive director Timothy Kremer announced several staffing changes:

  • Jessica Goldstein, formerly senior policy consultant, has been appointed deputy director of policy services. Goldstein has been a member of the policy department since 1999.
  • Courtney Sanik, a policy consultant with NYSSBA since 2007, has been promoted to senior policy consultant.
  • Mary Williams-Noi, who has been a member of the policy department since 1996, was promoted to the position of policy consultant
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