New York State School Boards Association
On Board Online May 7 2012
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99% of school districts tap reserves

On Board Online • May 7, 2012

By Paul Heiser
Senior Research Analyst

School boards throughout New York State made tough choices this budget season, according to the results of a survey by NYSSBA and the New York State Association of School Business Officials (NYSASBO). Nearly two-thirds of districts plan on cutting teaching positions, more than half of school districts are set to increase class sizes, and a third will reduce extracurricular activities, including sports.

Meanwhile, the State Education Department (SED) reported that nearly all districts (98.7 percent) plan to use reserve funds to minimize their 2012-13 tax levies. Districts plan to use $1.3 billion in 2012-13 – an average of nearly $2 million per district. (In the current school year, school districts used $1.45 billion in reserves– an average of nearly $2.2 million per district.)

Districts are proposing spending increases of just 1.5 percent, on average, according to state Property Tax Report Card data.

NYSSBA, NanoCollege offer innovation awards

On Board Online • May 7, 2012

By Eric D. Randall

NYSSBA has teamed up with the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) of the University at Albany to recognize innovative programs in public schools.

The “Be the Change for Kids Innovation Awards” will call attention to new ways that schools are preparing students for the 21st century, including but not limited to programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Has the tax cap worked?

On Board Online • May 7, 2012

By Thomas J. Nespeca
NYSSBA President

This year is the first under the state’s new property tax levy cap, and the question on everyone’s mind is: Has the cap “worked”?

The final determination will be made on May 15 when voters across the state cast their vote on local school budgets.  But judging from what we’ve seen, it certainly appears that the tax levy cap has influenced the thinking of school leaders – and others in the school community – as they put together their district budgets.

An overwhelming 92 percent of districts are proposing budgets with tax levy increases at or below their maximum allowable tax levy under the cap. 

No BOE representation on Cuomo ed panel

On Board Online • May 7, 2012

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior writer

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has handed the members of a new education commission a broad “soup-to-nuts” mandate to produce a blueprint for improving New York students’ academic performance and career preparation.

“Government has failed to do what government should be doing” to improve education in New York, Cuomo said.

NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer described the commission members as “an all-star cast,” but pointed to the notable omission of any school board member among those who will serve.

Regents tackle talking pineapple issues

On Board Online • May 7, 2012

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior writer

The topic of examination quality jumped to the top of the Board of Regents’ agenda after a flurry of news stories about a strange fable on last month’s statewide ELA test.

At their April meeting, Regents questioned how items are being prepared and vetted for future exams.

Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch used the words “troubling episode” to describe a controversy over reading comprehension questions on “The Hare and the Pineapple,” an absurdist story in which a talking pineapple challenges a hare to a race. Students have complained there is no right answer to some of the reading comprehension questions, and plenty of adults – including Jeopardy champ Ken Jennings – have confessed to being similarly dumbfounded. 

Study points to lack of data on instructional materials

On Board Online • May 7, 2012

By Gayle Simidian
Research Analyst

The state Board of Regents expects every public school teacher to teach at least one instructional unit aligned with Common Core standards this academic year, and all English language arts and mathematics instruction is supposed to be aligned to the Common Core standards in the 2012-13 school year. This will require changes in curriculums and, in many cases, new instructional materials, according to a new study from the Brookings Institution called Choosing Blindly: Instructional Materials, Teacher Effectiveness, and the Common Core.

Authors Matthew Chingos and Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst of the Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings argue that efforts to improve student achievement and make students college and career-ready is hampered by too little information on what instructional materials are being used by schools. In fact, only one state, Florida, gathers data from school districts on instructional materials.

To reduce conflict and improve achievement, boards should look at trust: NYSSBA staffers

On Board Online • May 7, 2012

By Cathy Woodruff 
Senior Writer

Trust and conflict are opposite sides of the same coin. That means managing conflict productively is much easier when school boards first take steps to build trust, two NYSSBA staffers said in a workshop at the National School Boards Association’s Annual Conference, held in Boston last month.

In a presentation called “Building Trust and Overcoming Conflict on Your Board,” NYSSBA Leadership Development Manager Darci D’Ercole-McGinn and Editor-in-Chief Eric Randall led a packed room of board members through exercises to help them recognize types of conflict and practice tactics for dealing with it.

The stakes extend beyond the obvious goals of leading smooth, productive meetings, Randall said.  He summarized research that found a correlation between high levels of trust among school leaders – including board members, administrators and teachers – and improved achievement among students.

NYSSBA lawyer decries decline in civility

On Board Online • May 7, 2012

By Cathy Woodruff 
Senior Writer

Boorish behavior by other lawyers who ought to know better is an all-too-frequent fact of professional life these days for attorneys, two veterans of school law practice said during a presentation at the National School Boards Association Conference.

The decline of civility takes a personal toll on lawyers who report disproportionately high levels of stress, depression, divorce and drug and alcohol abuse, they said, and it drains time and energy from their clients’ interests.

Nonetheless, there are ways for honorable lawyers who face rude ones to cope, they said. In many cases, the bad actors can be sanctioned under state rules guiding proper and ethical conduct. Finally, if all else fails, they demonstrated, the prospect of public embarrassment can be a real incentive to use better manners.

Anne Byrne elected NSBA officer

On Board Online • May 7, 2012

By Eric Randall 

For the first time since the 1990s, a New Yorker has become one of the top officers of the National School Boards Association (NSBA). Former NYSSBA President Anne M. Byrne of Nanuet was elected Secretary-Treasurer by NSBA’s 150-member Delegate Assembly.

New York has a history of producing NSBA leaders. New York and California have each produced five of NSBA’s 65 presidents since the organization was formed in 1940.

C. Ed Massey of Kentucky’s Boone County Schools was elected president and David A. Pickler of Tennessee’s Shelby County Schools was elected President-elect at the association’s Annual Conference, which took place in Boston April 21-23.

Are schools becoming homogenized?

On Board Online • May 7, 2012

By Cathy Woodruff 
Senior Writer

The ability of local boards to control the destiny of their own schools is under siege on several fronts, a panel of experts led by David A. Little, NYSSBA’s director of governmental relations, warned in a presentation at the 2012 Annual Conference of the National School Boards Association.

The session’s title was ominous: “School Boards’ Last Stand.”

Threats to local control often are characterized as educational reform, the panelists said, and they include: charter schools, bids for mayoral control, voucher programs, virtual charter schools, for-profit school operators, state and federal funding tied to adoption of specific programs and approaches, and efforts to standardize curriculum and textbooks.

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