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Cuomo offers $1B - with strings

On Board Online • January 26, 2015

By Eric Randall

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed what he called a "large investment" in school funding - an increase of $1.06 billion, or 4.8 percent - but said a long list of reforms are needed to ensure that money is spent well.

"If we want to invest in the system, make it the right system," Cuomo said in a combined State of the State and budget address on Jan. 21. "Our education system needs dramatic reform and has for years."

Among the boldest changes proposed were a new way of rating teachers, a five-year tenure process and a new intervention model for chronically underperforming schools.

In answer to longstanding criticism of the 3020-a disciplinary process, Cuomo proposed making it easier for administrators to dismiss teachers with consistently poor evaluations.

2015 tax cap set at 1.62%

On Board Online • January 26, 2015

By Paul Heiser
Senior Research Analyst

The property tax cap for school districts for 2015 will be 1.62 percent, the state comptroller's office has announced.

The amount is based on the inflation rate on the national Consumer Price Index for 2014. Under the tax cap law, property taxes levied by school districts generally cannot increase by more than 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. This is known as the 'allowable levy growth factor.' However, the law does allow school districts to levy an additional amount for certain expenditures that are excluded from the cap, such as capital projects. An override of the levy limit is also permitted with at least 60 percent voter approval.

The cap, the freeze and the tax credit

On Board Online • January 26, 2015

Timothy G. Kremer
NYSSBA Executive Director

Did you hear the one about the tax cap, the tax freeze and the tax credit?

I wish there were a funny punch line, but unfortunately, this is no laughing matter, especially if you're leading a school district in an area of the state with lower property wealth.

That's because Gov. Cuomo is tying yet another initiative to the property tax cap.

In case you missed it, the governor chose property tax relief as the first proposal to unveil as part of his 2015 "Opportunity Agenda."

Regents say plan to turn high school into charter school needs more study

On Board Online • January 26, 2015

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

The Board of Regents has declined to approve a plan by leaders of a small Orange County school district to turn their high school into a charter school emphasizing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The Regents returned the charter proposal from the Tuxedo school district at their January meeting, seeking revisions and additional information after several members of the board expressed concern about the financial impact the conversion could have on neighboring school districts.

"I would suggest that we have to send this back until we can address this issue," said Regent Harry Phillips, whose lower Hudson Valley district includes Tuxedo and several nearby school districts. He said the plan, as it stands under current laws and regulations, would present "a tremendous challenge" for at least one neighboring district, Greenwood Lake.

Tuxedo Superintendent Carol Lomascolo told On Board her district's leaders remain committed to pursuing the conversion of George F. Baker High School to a STEM Academy charter school and will strive to address the concerns raised by the Regents.

When trying to count charter schools, the math gets complicated

On Board Online • January 26, 2015

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

In his State of the State address, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed bumping up the cap on the number of charter schools that can be authorized in the state by 100 more schools.

But with a total of 460 charters allowed under the current cap and just 248 charter schools open, it's reasonable to wonder why anyone would be talking about raising the cap.

Since 460 minus 248 equals 212, doesn't that mean that plenty of charters remain up for grabs?

Well, no.

NYSSBA details opposition to field test plan

On Board Online • January 26, 2015

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

NYSSBA is weighing in against a proposed rule change that would explicitly require schools to administer the stand-alone field tests used to vet potential questions for future state tests.

NYSSBA "opposes stand-alone field tests, based on concerns expressed by its members and the parents of the children they serve," Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer wrote in a Jan. 5 letter to Deputy Education Commissioner Ken Wagner. Parents have complained that field tests rob schools of instructional time, and some districts have refused to participate.

"While NYSSBA recognizes that required standardized tests need to be validated, it believes such validation should not be dependent upon stand-alone field tests," Kremer continued. "Instead, such validation should be accomplished by the insertion of sample questions in existing tests and by producing more versions of the tests."

Kremer's letter also acknowledged that the State Education Department's reliance on stand-alone field tests is largely a consequence of insufficient state funding to embed more trial questions within regular "operational" exams. He noted that NYSSBA "has long advocated for the state to fully fund the state assessment program."

When conflict becomes personal

On Board Online • January 26, 2015

By Brian Benzel

Leadership, especially in public settings, occasionally attracts controversy. We understand that even with well-considered procedures and efforts to ensure fair consideration of complex issues, conflicts will arise, often from unsuspected sources. At times, these conflicts are personal or become personal. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to ease the pain of a personal conflict with a citizen, a fellow board member, or a staff member. Additionally, easy access to social media and unfiltered and unverified information in the hands of just about anyone can spread conflict quickly.

The truth is that eliminating the likelihood of personalized conflicts coming your way may not be possible. But how you respond is within your control-and affects how others respond. Four strategies can help you prepare and manage your response while easing the pain and calming, rather than inflaming, the situation.

1. Create clear, deliberate, and transparent decision-making processes. Such processes can anticipate and diminish the potential for conflict. Make sure the process includes adequate time for board consideration of issues. Build a decision-making process that respects the need for public awareness, understanding, and input. Such processes should focus upon informing the staff and the public about the nature of the challenge and the need for action. Follow the adopted decision-making process as fully as the study of the issue allows. If changes become necessary, make adjustments publicly and with a full explanation.

2. Stay calm in the face of personal allegations or attacks. This response is often hard to achieve because a natural adrenaline rush can kick in and create a "fight or flight" situation. Keep your ego in check and try not to respond in this state. Rather, give yourself time to think through the reason for the attack. Talk with the superintendent, a trusted family member, a friend, or a board colleague to help you think through how to address the issue. Use this time to thoughtfully determine the best response and ways to direct your message to what the antagonists are saying to you or about you without escalating emotions.

Risk level definitions

On Board Online • January 26, 2015

Before being released to the community, the Board of Examiners of Sex Offenders makes a recommendation to the sentencing court regarding the offender's risk level. The risk level is based on an examination of the facts in each particular case such as the offender's use of force, weapons, alcohol or drugs, victim's age, number of victims, assault or injury to the victim and the sex offender's relationship to the victim.

The sentencing court then assigns one of the following three risk levels: Level 1 (low risk of repeat offense), Level 2 (moderate risk of repeat offense), or Level 3 (high risk of repeat offense). The risk level indicates the level of danger the offender poses to the community.

Sex offenders on school property

On Board Online • January 26, 2015

By the New York State Association of School Attorneys

As a school board member, you may be faced with questions about the presence of sex offenders on school property. You may receive a phone call from a parent saying, "I've heard that the father of one of the students in my daughter's first-grade class is a convicted sex offender. I don't know the details, but other parents are reporting to me that the conviction arises from a sexual relationship that he had with a teenage girl a few years ago. Would you want a sex offender around your kid? If this guy really is a convicted sex offender, can we ban him from school property?"

Unfortunately, there is not a simple "yes" or "no" answer to that question. Factors include, but are not limited to, whether the person in question is actually a registered sex offender, the offender's risk classification and whether the offender has been released on parole or is currently on probation or conditional discharge from custody or incarceration.


En Florida, los tres estudiantes tienen un importante proyecto

On Board Online • January 26, 2015

By Merri Rosenberg
Special Correspondent

Can elementary school faculty do a good job teaching Spanish if they don't know much about the language themselves? One Orange County school district is aiming to find out - with some help from high school seniors Cassie Rodriguez, Kyra Sullivan and Kayla Campana.

As part of an independent study, the seniors are helping elementary teachers plan and create materials for a Spanish language program that will be introduced in September to the first and fifth grades.

It's an example of how one school district is seeking to challenge students more in both high school and early grades.

Working with Spanish teacher Cassia Peeler, the students have been developing curricular materials, including tools for proper Spanish pronunciation. The students have observed classes and plan to visit other districts to examine elementary language programs. They have also created posters and developed teacher resources including a flash drive that students can use to save their lessons and audio files, so teachers can review them.

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