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Massena Central School Board of Education Update
January 1, 2016

Happy Holidays

I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year.  I hope that 2016 brings great happiness and success to all in the Massena community.  I am grateful to be here and look forward to all we can accomplish together to provide the best possible experiences for our students.
Massena Drug Free Coalition Presents Renowned Speaker on January 6th
The Massena Drug Free Coalition will host Michael Nerney on January 6th to discuss the impact of drug use on the adolescent brain.  See flyer below.  I encourage our school community to attend this important event.

Here is a Courier Observer article about the event:
Massena Awarded Food Service Equipment Funds
Congratulations to Food Service Director Peter Bertrand for his successful grant application to purchase cafeteria equipment under the National School Lunch Program.  Massena was awarded $10,457 to procure three reach-in refrigerators for JW Leary Junior High School, Madison Elementary School, and Nightengale Elementary School.
The New York State Education Department (SED) received 318 applications for equipment requests which totaled approximately $3 million. The SED was able to fund a total of 148 equipment grant awards to 105 Recipient Agencies (RA) in 59 School Food Authorities (SFA), totaling $1,401,856.  Massena was one of three schools in our region to receive funding.
BOE Facilities Committee Meeting
The Facilities Committee met on December 8th and toured the high school.  Attached are the minutes of the meeting which will be presented at the next BOE meeting on 1/14. 
Next Meeting: Monday, January 11, 2016 at 4:30 pm--Tour of JW Leary Junior High School.
BOE Policy Committee Meeting
The Policy Committee met on December 17th and reviewed several policies which will be presented to the Board at its next meeting on January 14th.  We also had a presentation by Business Manager Nick Brouillette in regard to the Affordable Care Act.  Attached are the minutes of the Policy Committee meeting.  The Board also has access to all of the information presented to the Committee through the GoogleDocs.
Next Meeting: Thursday, January 28, 2016 at 6:30 pm—Central Administration Building
Albany Update
The following is an update from NYSCOSS on the latest developments in public education:
ESSA Now the Law of the Land
By Terrance N. Pratt, Esq., Assistant Director for Government Relations

Last Thursday, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law. The sweeping new law returns authority to the states on a number of issues, as well as mitigating the United States Department of Education’s (USDOE) current waiver process. Some provisions of the law take effect immediately and others will not be in effect until September 2016.

Even with those provisions in effect immediately, a sort of legal limbo still exists. With the added authority granted under the new law comes added responsibility for the states. It appears likely that New York will need to take regulatory action on a number of items arising from this law. However, action by the states is premature until there is action from the USDOE to clarify the statute and adopt regulations consistent with their authority under the new law. States would be prudent to wait for USDOE to take action, which would then touch off a subsequent round of state rulemaking to comply with the law and federal regulations. This could take many months.

Quality national sources are beginning to produce analysis of the extensive legislation. Here is a brief analysis of the ramifications by Education Next and by Education Counsel. Here also is a discussion of the new law with national education experts, including AASA’s Noelle Ellerson.
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Regents Approve APPR State Assessment Moratorium
By Robert Lowry, Deputy Director For Advocacy, Research and Communications

Earlier this week, the Board of Regents approved a regulatory change to implement the recommendation of Governor Cuomo’s Common Core Task Force for a suspension of the use of the state-provided growth score in APPR. The proposal goes to the full board for approval tomorrow (Tuesday).

Here is the Regents item containing the regulatory change. 

The Task Force report recommended, “...State-administered standardized ELA and Mathematics assessments for grades three through eight aligned to the Common Core or updated standards shall not have consequences for individual students or teachers. Further, any growth model based on these Common Core tests or other state assessments shall not have consequences and shall only be used on an advisory basis for teachers. The transition phase shall last until the start of the 2019-2020 school year.”

Accordingly, the Regents regulatory change provides:
  1. For evaluations conducted under 3012-c in 2015-16, “…an overall composite transition score and rating shall be generated based on the scores and ratings on the remaining subcomponents of the annual professional performance review that are not based on State assessments [i.e., the grades 3-8 ELA and math assessments] and/or a State-provided growth score on Regents examinations. The overall composite transition score shall include the use of any back-up SLOs developed by the district/BOCES in lieu of the State-provided growth score on State assessments; provided that such back-up SLOs shall not be based on State assessments.” This will be the rating used for employment-related decisions, including the assignment of teacher or principal improvement plans.
  2. For evaluations conducted under 3012-d in 2015-16 through 2018-19, “a transition score and rating on the student performance category, and a transition rating that incorporates the student performance category rating shall be generated based on: (i) the scores/ratings in the subcomponents of the student performance category that are not based on State assessments [i.e., the grades 3-8 ELA and math assessments] and/or a State-provided growth score on Regents assessments; or (ii) in instances where no scores/ratings in the subcomponents of the student performance category can be generated, a back-up SLO shall be developed by the district/BOCES consistent with guidelines prescribed by the Commissioner using assessments approved by the Department that are not State assessments.” This will be the rating used for employment-related decisions, including the assignment of teacher or principal improvement plans.
This section also provides, “State-provided growth scores will continue to be calculated for advisory purposes only pursuant to this Part during this transition period and teachers and principals will continue to receive an overall rating calculated pursuant to this Subpart. (2) In addition, during this transition period, the Commissioner may also authorize the use of one or more State-provided growth model(s) that take into consideration multiple years of student growth on State assessments to compute scores in the required ​subcomponent of the student performance category, for advisory purposes only under this section.”

The regulation also provides that for both sections, “…the Commissioner shall establish procedures in guidance for transition scores and ratings for teachers and principals whose annual professional performance review … is based, in whole or in part, on State assessments and/or on State-provided growth scores on Regents examinations during a transition period while the State completes the transition to higher learning standards through new State assessments aligned to the higher learning standards, and a revised State-provided growth model.”

The basic idea is that any use of state-provided growth scores derived from the grades 3 through 8 state assessments or Regents Exams -- or any other measures based on the state grades 3-8 assessments -- would be prohibited from use in APPR evaluations.

For districts conducting evaluations under 3012-c in 2015-16, the evaluation would be based on the remaining parts of the composite effectiveness score, including any back-up SLOs. For 2016-17 through 2018-19, districts would be expected to evaluate under 3012-d and the student performance rating in the matrix would be based on any approved student performance measures not using state assessments, or, if there are no non-state test-based measures, then the district would use an SLO using assessments approved by SED as the student performance category in the matrix – this would also apply to districts which now have approved 3012-d plans.

We have been hearing concerns about SLOs from superintendents and are sharing those will be sharing with SED officials and the Governor's Office.

Regents State Aid Proposal
By Robert Lowry, Deputy Director for Advocacy, Research and Communications
Regents also approved their School Aid proposal for 2016-17. They recommend a $2.1 billion increase in regular aid, including $434 million to end the Gap Elimination Adjustment and $1.3 billion to increase Foundation Aid. The Regents also propose a total of $345 million for a collection of initiatives – expansion of Prekindergarten ($125 million), and support for Struggling Schools $75 million), Professional Development ($45 million), English Language Learners ($75 million), and Family and Community Engagement ($25 million).
Altogether, the Regents are a requesting a $2.4 billion increase in School Aid. In a switch from almost any other year, the Regents are proposing a greater increase in School Aid than the Educational Conference Board, the coalition of public school groups including the Council, NYSSBA, NYSUT, SAANYS, NYSPTA, NYSASBO and the Big 5 City Schools. ECB identified a need for an increase in regular School Aid of $1.7 billion -- $400 million lower than the Regents. The ECB recommendation reflected an effort to project what would be needed to maintain current services, based on a set of moderate assumptions about costs and the prospect of a zero percent tax cap.

ECB assumed that a $1.7 billion increase would be sufficient to end the GEA and fully fund current law formulas for expense-based and categorical aids, with the balance supporting a significant increase in Foundation Aid. But ECB assumed the expense-based aids would increase by $200 million. Instead they are projected to rise by over $400 million. Like ending the GEA, funding the expense-based aids tends to be more helpful to more affluent districts. With the larger cost of the expense-based aids, there is less left for Foundation Aid, making it harder to produce a plausible aid distribution with “only” $1.7 billion.  Here are some slides illustrating these points.

The Regents proposal includes a helpful chart illustrating that increases in school spending have been moderate since the advent of the Great Recession (2009-10 on). See page 6.

Like the ECB, the Regents also recommend using one-time resources from the state’s settlements with financial institutions to pay down prior year aid adjustments owed to public schools. At the current rate of payment, a district having adjustment in their favor approved today would have to wait 17 years to receive payment.

A note on the tax cap:  The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics released its Consumer Price Index for November, giving us 11 of the 12 months needed to calculate the "allowable levy growth factor" for the 2016-17 school property tax cap.  The allowable levy growth factor is the tax cap without any applicable exclusions.  Through 11 months, the average change in the CPI has been 0.06 percent.  The actual allowable levy growth factor cannot be calculated until the December CPI is released on January 20th, but obviously, the final month will not appreciably move the full-year average.

Commissioner Elia's Presentation on the Common Core Task Force Report - and some thoughts on the role of the report
By Robert Lowry, Deputy Director for Advocacy, Research and Communications

Also at the Regents' meetings, State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia presented a summary of the recommendations of Governor Cuomo's Common Core Task Force.  The item is interesting because, for each recommendation, it identifies what SED has been doing or will be doing.  Here is the link.

In our recent survey report, the most surprising figure for me was that 96 percent of responding superintendents said "controversies over state policies having a negative effect on their schools" was a problem for their districts; 64 percent said the problem was significant.  I was surprised that the perception was nearly universal, and that it had surpassed "general funding adequacy" as the most widely cited problem.

The Task Force recommendations are not perfect, nor is the Regents action described above implementing the recommendation for a moratorium on the use of state assessment measures in APPR.  But we do believe they provide the best near-term hope for quieting controversies, perhaps creating some time and space for state officials to make course adjustments. 

It is probably helpful that holiday season is approaching, diverting attention from all these issues for a time, allowing state officials time to consider next steps and how to communicate where all these actions will ultimately lead.

Regents Workgroup on Improving Outcomes for Boys and Young Men of Color Issues Findings
By Terrance N. Pratt, Esq., Assistant Director for Government Relations

At this week's Board of Regents Meeting, the Regents’ Workgroup on Improving Outcomes for Boys and Young Men of Color issued its recommendations to the Board. Led by Regent Lester Young, the Workgroup held meetings around the state during the fall to examine educational challenges faced by boys and young men of color. Council Executive Director Bob Reidy served on the Blue Ribbon Committee that advised the Workgroup and participated in the meetings. The Workgroup’s report to the Board can be viewed here.

Based upon President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, the Workgroup set out to achieve advances in graduating this population ready for college and career, completing postsecondary education and successfully entering the workforce. In their examination of educational issues facing boys and young men of color, the Workgroup identified relationships made within the educational experience as well as the opportunities presented to boys and young men of color as potential key factors in success or breakdown in outcomes.

The Workgroup therefore recommended that the Board pursue policies that would foster recruitment and training of professional staff in this area, align outcomes with stakeholder relationships, focus multiple agencies on a developmental and holistic approach, provide greater clarity on the roadmap leading to college and career success as well as building an equitable system. The Workgroup also provided action and budgetary sub-recommendations for each of these recommendation areas.

Ultimately, the Workgroup made a recommendation of $50 million to support these initiatives. It was resolved by the full Board of Regents that they would advocate for inclusion of funding for this program as part of the State Budget process.

This item will likely be discussed as part of the State Budget in 2016. Some policy recommendations made by the Workgroup may also require statutory language.

Governor Vetoes Construction Retainage Legislation
By Terrance N. Pratt, Esq., Assistant Director for Government Relations

Late last week, the Governor issued a veto message of S.2931(Libous)/A.796 (Braunstein), which would have eliminated the cost of materials used in construction projects from calculation of retainage. Under current law, public and private contracting entities are permitted to retain up to 5% of the total cost of a construction project until a final review of the completed project is concluded. This legislation would have eliminated the ability of a school district (or any other contracting entity) to retain any percentage owed to a contractor that could be attributed to a cost for a material used in the construction (with a warranty).

This legislation was problematic for a host of reasons. First, the school district would have no business relationship with a materials subcontractor, making it more difficult to pursue them legally if a material were defective. Second, this bill would have disincentivized general contractors from using high quality materials, since no amount owed to the contractor for those materials could be withheld by the school district. It also would have eliminated a large portion of the current retainage amount on many new construction projects, as materials make up a large amount of the total. This would provide less incentive for a general contractor to complete a project on a timeline and to the satisfaction of a school district.

Finally, given the sensitive nature of school buildings and the importance that superintendents place on the safety of those in their schools, creating a disincentive for contractors to use high quality materials on these projects was particularly galling.

The Council vehemently opposed this legislation and lobbied for its veto. We thank the Governor for his veto of this legislation. In his veto message, the Governor encouraged stakeholders to pursue a workable remedy for materials suppliers that could be considered in the next budget. We are willing to be part of this discussion, however we will continue to oppose any proposal that limits the ability of school districts to ensure the use of high quality materials in school construction projects.

Upcoming Events
1/4—School Resumes
1/6—Michael Nerney Presentation on Drug Prevention—7:00 pm—Massena Community Center
1/11—Facilities Committee Meeting—4:30 pm—JW Leary Junior High
1/14—Finance Committee Meeting—5:30 pm—HS Student Affairs Room; BOE Meeting—6:30 pm—HS Room 314
Last Updated: 1/12/16
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