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Superintendent's Message
Massena Central School Board of Education Update
January 22, 2016

Governor Cuomo’s Representative Visits Massena
On Wednesday, I attended a presentation at the Massena Town Hall by Governor Cuomo’s director of the New York State Canal Corporation, Brian Stratton.  Director Stratton presented a mini version of the Governor’s State of the State Address and opened up to questions from the community.  About 75 people attended the event including many local government officials and business leaders.  I questioned the equitability of state education funding and the new Community Schools program which was added this year to the Governor’s budget proposal. 
Below is a link to a Courier Observer article about the event.
State Assessment Changes

In recent years, the change to more rigorous Common Core assessments and use of these tests in teacher evaluations has led to a heated backlash where parents have opted their children out of taking state exams.  It has also widened the divide between the Governor and the State Education Department in setting educational policy.  However, more recently the temperature has been lowered as the state legislature placed prohibitions on PreK-2 testing and the Governor’s Common Core Commission advised to implement a moratorium on the use of state assessment in teacher/principal evaluations until the 2018-19 school year.   The state tests will also be shortened and a new testing company, Questar, will replace the controversial Pearson who had been compromised by their work in the Common Core implementation process.  The hope by state officials will be to gain support for the new standards in their efforts to raise student achievement.
Last year, the testing opt out movement led to approximately 20% of students refusing to take exams statewide and in a few schools, the rate was over 90%. For Massena, the opt outs for ELA and math were 26% and 40% respectively in Grades 3-8.  The question in 2016 will be whether the aforementioned roll back in assessments will lead to more support for the state assessments and a reduction in opt outs.
Recently, the new NYS Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia decided in the case of East Meadow Union Free School District (#16,835) that parents do not have the right to opt their students out of required state assessments.  See attachedSchool Law Matters for more details. It will be interesting to see how this decision will play out in the months ahead as schools throughout the state implement the revised state assessments.  Our hope is that parents will consider the state compromises and support the school in their efforts to implement the exams.
Board of Regents Make APPR Regulations Permanent

Last week, the Board of Regents held its monthly meeting and approved the emergency regulations passed in December after the Governor’s Common Core Commission released its report. They subsequently distributed an FAQ which clarified some relevant issues such as the APPR hardship waivers.  From this guidance, I am pleased to report that school districts will not need to apply for further hardship waivers this year as the timeline to negotiate a new teacher/principal evaluation plan under 3012-d has been extended to September 1, 2016.  Therefore, we are able to maintain our current evaluation plans this year under 3012-c minus the use of state exams in the final calculation.

Here is the link to the FAQ.

Here are key points on three basic issues as provided by NYSCOSS:
  1. Districts conducting evaluations under the prior law (section 3012-c) will not be required to request another hardship waiver -- SED is granting an automatic extension of those waivers. (See question 15 on page 12). All districts will be required to have an approved plan in compliance with the new law (section 3012-d) and regulations by September 1, 2016.  SED does advise districts to submit proposed plans by July 1 to allow timely processing of all the submissions by the September 1 deadline, but waivers will not be required to submit after July 1.
  2. For the 2015-16 school year, districts operating under 3012-c will also not be required to create new Student Learning Objectives or other student performance measures to replace the state-provided growth score or other measures tied to the grades 3-8 state assessments.   Instead, affected districts will prorate upward the remaining measures not affected by the moratorium. For example, if a teacher’s evaluation was to be based 20 percent on a state-provided growth score and 20 percent on a local measure tied to the grades 3-8 state assessments, then for 2015-16, his or her composite effectiveness score would be calculated by prorating his or her score on the “other 60 percent measures” to a 100 point scale to determine the “HEDI” rating. (See questions 12 and 13 on page 11 and the example scenarios on pages 7 through 11).
  3. For the 2015-16 school year only, the 80 or so districts which did negotiate and gain approval for plans under the new law (section 3012-d) will also not be required to develop new student performance measures. Similar to districts operating under the old law, these districts will exclude any measures using a state-provided growth score or tied to the grades 3-8 state assessments and determine the HEDI rating based on the remaining unaffected measures. For example, if all the measures used in determining the rating for the student performance component would be excluded, then for the 2015-16 school year, the teacher’s overall rating would be based solely on observations. (See the paragraph beginning on the bottom of page 13).  This essentially affords these districts the same treatment as counterparts which had not sought or gained approval for 3012-d plans.  

Again, all districts will be required to have APPR plans approved and in compliance with the new law and regulations by September 1, 2016.

Other Board of Regents Actions
The following information is provided by NYSCOSS in regard to the Board of Regents Meeting held on January 11-12, 2016:
The discussion, which kicked off the Regents' meetings on Jan. 11 and 12, coincided with a report that New York's 4-year graduation rate continues to rise and is now approaching 80 percent – the goal set for New York and approved in 2012 by the U.S. Department of Education.
Among students who entered high school in 2011, 78.1 percent had earned diplomas four years later. That's up 1.7 percent from the previous year's rate.
Still, statistics show that the state still has a significant number of students who do not graduate within four years or drop out, according to Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia.
Expanding the number of ways students can qualify for a diploma – which state officials call "pathways" – would enable the state to recognize and "support students who don't all march to the same drummer," Elia said. At the same time, Elia urged raising the state's graduation rate goal.
Currently, students can only earn a diploma by a "4 + 1" pathway that involves passing four Regents exams (in math, science, social studies and English language arts) plus passing an additional Regents or alternative exam, approved career and technical education exam, approved pathway assessment in the arts or approved pathway assessment in a language other than English.
The Regents are considering proposals to:
  • Expand the range of Regents exam scores eligible for appeal from 62-64 to scores of 60-64. This could raise the number of graduates by an estimated 4,000 students.
  • Add a Career Development and Occupational Studies Commencement Credential (CDOS) designed for students with disabilities as an option to replace one Regents exam.
  • Incorporate project-based assessments, which allow students to demonstrate knowledge and skills, for students who pass required coursework but are unable to pass an associated Regents exam.
  • Also this month:
  • The Regents approved a temporary safety net to allow teacher candidates who failed the math portion of an exam for a generalist teacher certification, which is required for teachers of students with disabilities in Grades 7-12. The expansion was recommended, department officials said, to enable a large number of candidates who failed that exam to have a second chance.
  • Department staff reported on an initiative to assess regulations in place for education of students in facilities operated by the state Office of Children and Family Services, Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and county and municipal jails. The department also will assess the quality and sufficiency of the educational programs and develop recommendations for strengthening the programs.
  • The Regents approved moving forward with implementation of a new Seal of Bi-literacy for students who demonstrate proficiency in English and at least one additional world language.
  • The Regents recognized the upcoming retirements of two longtime staff members: James P. DeLorenzo, assistant commissioner in the Office of Special Education, who joined the department in 1988; and Director of Communications Tom Dunn, who joined the department in 1987.
NYSSBA Presents Transgender Webinar
On Friday, I participated in a webinar sponsored by the NYS School Boards Association in regard to school responsibilities for transgender students.  It was an excellent presentation hosted by NYSSBA counsel Jay Worona and featuring Shenendehowa Superintendent of Schools Oliver Robinson.  As you know, the State Education Department recently released guidance for schools to use in complying with laws which protect transgender students.  The District Policy Committee has been reviewing this guidance and developing a new policy which will meet these requirements.  The policy has been placed on hold for now as new information is analyzed and court cases are adjudicated which will clarify the responsibilities of school districts. 
Here are some of the more salient points presented in the webinar.  I have attached the PowerPoint and SED guidanceas well.
  • 2-5% of students  are transgender
  • More than 50% of transgender youth will have a suicide attempt by 20th birthdate
  • 75% have been verbally assaulted at school
  • 33% feel school administration have acted adequately and effectively in supporting them
  • Not an enumerated class under federal law but are protected under Title IX against discrimination based on gender identity
  • FERPA also protects student educational records; issue with protecting birth name when transgender students assume new name
  • Title VII will protect transgender employees along same premise as students under Title IX
  • Not an enumerated class under NYS law but Dignity for all Students Act (DASA) provides protection
  • Engage parents in conversation early; it is a struggle with families to deal with; empathy and appreciation is important
  • Strong advocates on both sides with louder side being against; some statements were vicious and mean-spirited at Shenendehowa
  • School needs to be objective and listen to concerns on both sides of issue
  • No bathroom policy previously at Shen--one of biggest issues on both sides
  • Legally, the student can go to bathroom of gender identification
  • Parents of female students were most concerned with "boys" coming into girl bathroom
  • The transgender students just want to go to the bathroom not make a statement; last thing they want to do is bring attention to themselves
  • NYSPHAA put out guidelines this week on how they will deal with transgender and sports participation; basically said would follow law
  • Field trips--communicate with parents; look at what accommodations can be provided; parents were fine at Shen with student staying in room with the gender in which he identified
  • Worona asked about the potential suicide of a student and District did not tell parents about transgender; parent might say the student misunderstood and would have supported he/she; schools should really try to open up this dialogue like we do when students come out as gay or teen pregnancy; school becomes facilitator of conversations; need to understand why student won’t tell parents; if imminent harm should fall on side of telling parents;
  • Counselors are not confidential per se in terms of parents; need to work with parents and child to facilitate the conversation.              

Rural School Association Albany Alert
This week, I received the attached information from the Rural Schools Association in regard to the state budget.  It includes an analysis of the Executive Budget proposal and indicates that the RSA is meeting with representatives of the legislature and Governor’s office to advocate for increased funding.  One key point is that with the tax cap close to zero this year, districts will not be able to collect local dollars and the Governor did not take this into consideration when crafting his budget.  These local dollars amounted to $800 million last year in new levies to support schools.  Therefore, we have a tax freeze on one side of the revenue stream and a state proposal which is less than last year on the other.  If this stands, many schools will once again be forced to make cuts which are much more difficult to do after enduring the significant reductions during the Great Recession.  Legislative advocacy will be of great importance this year.
Renewal House Hosts Presenter on Protecting Children from Sex Offenders

Renewal House will bring Cory Jewell Jenson to St. Lawrence County on April 29th, during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.  Ms. Jensen will be presenting a day training at SUNY Canton’s Kingston Theater and then an evening presentation at Potsdam High School.   Her topic will be protecting children from sexual offenders.  Please see attachedflyers which include a bio of Ms. Jenson who is a behavioral specialist with 32 years of experience in the field.

HS Graduation Rates
This week, the Courier Observer wrote an article about the 2015 graduation rates recently released by the SED.  Massena made great improvement with this cohort raising its rates from 76% to 82%.  Continued progress is part of our District goals this year.
Stephanie McKeel’s Big Night
On Thursday, I witnessed one of the most inspirational events I have ever seen when the Girls Varsity Basketball team honored senior Stephanie McKeel who is battling cystic fibrosis.  Stephanie needs a double lung transplant and her coaches and teammates buoyed her spirits with a major show of affection before the game against Potsdam.  A video featuring college and pro athletes giving her well wishes began the event.  This was followed by numerous gifts and donations from various local and pro teams.  Stephanie was also given the honor of scoring the first basket of the game for her team.  It was a truly memorable event and our hopes and prayers go out to Stephanie and her family as they meet the challenges ahead.
Below is a link to a Courier Observer article about Stephanie’s big night.
High School
News & Notes

NY State High School Mock Trial
This year several students approached Amanda Hamilton about starting a Debate Club. They wanted the Debate Club to meet after school to discuss controversial issues. One thing led to another and the Debate Club transformed into a High School Mock Trial Team, with Amanda as their advisor.   The team will compete in a regional tournament in March against local schools. If they are successful at the regional level, they move on to the state level. This year’s case involves a young lady involved in a drug arrest.
The mock trial program is, first and foremost, an educational program designed to teach high school students basic trial skills. Students learn how to conduct direct and cross examinations, how to present opening and closing statements, how to think on their feet and learn the dynamics of a courtroom. Students will also learn how to analyze legal issues and apply the law to the facts of the case. Second, but equally important, is that participation in mock trial will teach the students professionalism. Students learn ethics, civility, and how to be ardent but courteous advocates for their clients. Good sportsmanship and respect for all participants are central to the competition. We thank the teachers, coaches, advisors, and judges, not only for the skills that they teach, but for the example of professionalism and good sportsmanship they model for the students throughout the tournament. 
The tournament is entering its 34th year. Because of the continued financial and logistical support from the New York Bar Foundation and the New York State Bar Association, New York State continues to have one of the largest and longest running high school mock trial programs in the nation. Equally important to the success of the program is the continued support of the numerous local bar associations that sponsor mock trial tournaments in their counties. The local lawyers who will be assisting the Massena Team are Effie Kyriakopoulos and Denise Smith.
Haudenosaunee Culture and History Course
February 1, 2016 marks the beginning of the second semester for the 2015-16 school year. It also marks the beginning of a new elective. This year Robin Logan will be teaching a new elective, The Haudenosaunee Culture and History Course.

Course Description: Introduction to Haudenosaunee (Ho-din-o-show-nee) Culture and History will build a fundamental understanding of the people, history, and culture of the Haudenosaunee. The curriculum will include learning about: each of the six Haudenosaunee nations that belong to the Iroquois Confederacy, will study the origins of the Confederacy, and follow the Haudenosaunee people from their origins to present day.   Students will study the Haudenosaunee culture and history through a variety of media such as film, literature, art, and historical sources.
This course was created to increase the level of cultural sensitivity toward Native American students and their families. It is open to any high school student. Since it is a half year course, students will earn a half a credit upon completion of the course.
Glass Castle/Raider’s Committed
Recently, Trista Girard’s English II class finished the novel The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. The novel is a true account of the experiences of the Walls children growing up in extreme poverty with a mother who was mentally ill and a father who was an alcoholic. All four children survived this lifestyle and went on to live lives outside of poverty. As a culmination of the unit, students were asked to participate in a variety of activities that were centered on how negative experiences in their lives don’t have to define them and how they can break the cycle of negative experiences in their lives. One activity was a presentation by Cashlynn Jaggers, a member of Raider’s Committed. Cashlynn talked to the students about what she learned at the Lake Placid Conference this past summer on the Life of an Athlete. Her presentation provided the students with information on the teenage brain from the work of John Underwood. She talked to the students about how to maintain optimal performance as an individual through good nutrition and how to rise above negative peer pressure. Mrs. Gurard and Mr. Hayes reported that a healthy discussion came out of the presentation with the students providing Cashlynn ideas of events they can hold next year that students would enjoy participating in.
Junior High School
News & Notes

  • On January 12, 2016 April Charleson and Burt Peck participated in the instructional rounds visit at Colton-Pierrepont Central School. The purpose of the day was to experience and participate in the instructional rounds from start to finish. Both had received previous training in rounds through the Principal’s Academy sponsored by SLU and SLL BOCES.  On Friday January 22, 2015, three more teachers went for training: Brent McCarthy, Catherine Donahue, and Christine Sweet. Hope fully they will be able to participate in a future instructional rounds visit. 
  • There will be 18 chorus students participating in the All-County Chorus Concert the first weekend of February in Ogdensburg.  J.W. Leary Junior High School will have the MOST students going from the participating St. Lawrence County schools.  We also have the highest chorus numbers of all the schools.  Secondly, three of our 8th grade chorus students auditioned Thursday night for the high school musical and are now part of the cast.  They are:  Peyton Brown, Jillian Chapman, and Ian Bigness.  They did a wonderful job!  
  • On Wednesday January 20, 2016 The Arts in Education component of the SLL BOCES presented comedian Josh Gunderson at the JH. His presentation was about cyber security and cyber bullying. He utilized humor and a PowerPoint slide to illustrate the need for students to be careful when using social media. In one example, he discussed how with one picture and a few posts, a stalker was able to find a teenager at a soccer game.                              ​​
  • With the help of MCHS teacher Jan Normile, the Junior High was able to expand the number of high school students tutoring after school at the JH by seven students. There are now 9 student tutors, and each math teacher has their own after school tutor. 
  • Social Studies teacher Cassie Hayes showed the movie MIRACLE as an after school (3:00 pm to 5:00 pm) extra credit opportunity for students. She connected the historical context of the movie to future lessons. She will be providing future social studies related extra credit movies. 

Early release/staff development days January 28, 29, 2016
Valentines Dance February 5, 2015
Jefferson Elementary School
News & Notes

Jefferson Student Teachers
Seven student teachers from SUNY Potsdam will be preparing for their teaching careers at Jefferson in the months of January-May. Four students began this week and will student teach until March 18. Three students will begin on March 21 and continue until May 20. The Jefferson faculty and staff were encouraged to take time to introduce themselves and welcome them to our school. It is such a huge responsibility that we all have in preparing these students to become our next colleagues.
Emily McHale with Cathy Dix Kindergarten January 19-March 18
Erika McGourty with Erinn Tredo Grade 1 March 21-May 20
Margaret Lapinski with Joan Bulger Grade 2 January 19-March 18
Molly Finnegan with Chad Graham Grade 5 January 19-March 18
Mallory Norton with Kristan Laramay Grade 1 March 21-May 20
Meghan Brennan with Mary Russell  Grade 2 March 21-May 20
Ann Shatraw with Sara Downs Grade 1 January 19-March 18

Jefferson Physical Education Unit: Lifetime/Leisure Activities

Grade Levels: 3 – 6

Description: In this unit, the students are exposed to many activities which can be enjoyed throughout their younger and older lives.  The activities are physically, mentally and socially beneficial to each person.  The unit incorporates two forms of dance which is part of the New York State Curriculum for Physical Education.

Activities: Spinner Bikes; Ping Pong; Foosball; Dance Dance Revolution, and Just Dance Three for the Wii. Mr. Patrick Henrie is the Physical Education teacher at Jefferson.

Border Patrol Visits Jefferson Third Grade Classes

United States Border Patrol Agents Grant Wachob and Kevin White recently visited Jefferson Elementary to explain their jobs and demonstrate their dogs. Both men are instructors and handlers in the Canine program. The agents explained that both of their dogs, Hippy and Ika, are trained to detect marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, heroine, and concealed humans. The agents demonstrated the various training tools and answered many student questions before the dogs demonstrated alerting the agents on hidden contraband in the garbage can. 

Exxon Mobil Educational Alliance Grant

The ExxonMobil Educational Alliance Program awarded a $500.00 grant to Jefferson Elementary School. The grant will be used to help support and enhance math and science projects at the school. The Grant was made possible through a partnership with local Mobil dealer Mountain Mart # 105, and local Mobil Distributor Adirondack Energy Products. Exxon Mobil believes it is important to encourage the next generation to pursue the studies of math and science. To that end, each year Exxon Mobil in partnership with local dealers such as Mountain Mart 105 offers grants to schools to be used to support their science and math curriculum.
Thank you very much to Mountain Mart and Exxon Mobil for your continued generous support.
Madison Elementary School
News & Notes

  • Madison Elementary School’s Library has a brand new 2016 World Book Encyclopedia Set. Thanks to a successful Fall Scholastic Book Fair. We raised enough money to purchase the encyclopedia set and 21 new fiction chapter books. In the picture above the students are checking out the new addition to the reference collection. The students are from Mrs. Fregoe’s classroom. From left to right: Troy LaFlamme, Clifford Gay, Haley Morgan, and Dylan Gardner.
  • Ms Premo’s class had a special visitor on December 21, 2015.  Dalton James Mullin, from United States Navy; son of Todd + JoAnn Mullin and brother of Dylan Mullin, visited the classroom to speak to the children. 
Dalton is a 2015 graduate of Massena Central.  He joined the United States Navy in July 2015 and graduated from boot camp in Great lakes, IL in October 2015.  He then proceeded to A-school in Pensacola, FL and graduated in January 2016.  After graduation he will be stationed in Virginia and will be deployed to an aircraft carrier in the Middle East.  Dalton serves our country by being an Aviation Structural Mechanic Recruit.  He works to maintain and repair utility systems throughout the various aircrafts.
Dalton spoke to the children about the United States Navy and also answering questions that the children had.  The students’ in Ms. Premo’s class enjoyed the visit immensely and they were actively engaged in the presentation and visit provided by Airmen Dalton Mullin. 

  • We will be hosting our second round of Data Meetings on Monday January 25th with the help of Nicole Warr from BOCES.  These meetings are part of the revised intervention system that was put in place this year at Madison.  This system is designed to provide us with meaningful data about our students 4 times a year.  Based upon mid-year testing which we have recently completed, we are able to make decisions about the extra supports which our students need to be successful.  This process allows us an opportunity to look at the performance of each and every child at Madison in both Math and ELA and then individualize support or enrichment based upon that information.  It was one of our goals this year to improve this system and we are well on our way. 
Nightengale Elementary
News & Notes

We began our school wide “Dibeling” this week to prepare for our quarterly Data Meetings on the February 8th. All students in grades K-4 and a handful of students in grades 5 & 6 will be assessed in reading. In addition, we have begun using STAR to add an additional data point for the Data Meetings in grades 3-6. All of this data has proved to be so useful when making decisions about levelled interventions and aim lines for each and every student.
New Teacher
Mr. Brady has made a provisional appointment for Maureen Frary to replace Carolyn Frazier. Maureen is a Massena native that has been a long term substitute in our district for the 1.5 years. She has been in Mrs. Frazier’s classroom since the beginning of November. We are very pleased to have her as part of our Nightengale family.  
Staff Development
The plans are coming together for our Staff Development Day. All three elementary buildings have been making plans to offer our staff an “in-house” technology day. We will be using our own experts to train their colleagues on new equipment and software. This will be a chance to share our “tricks of the trade” with our peers.
Instructional Rounds
I had the opportunity to visit Colton Pierrepont to watch and participate in the Instructional Round process. It is a fantastic learning experience for both administration and teachers. It offers valuable insight into the best practice of education. I plan on attending when Mr. Richards hosts “the rounds” at Jefferson.
Other News
A Nightengale Hero…...

Here is one of Nightengale's 2nd graders in Mrs. Perretta's class, named Kaitlyn Dostie. Kaitlyn recently donated nine inches of her hair to "people who need it."
Upcoming Events

1/26—Finance Committee Meeting—5:30 pm—Central Office Building
1/28—Policy Committee meeting—6:30 pm—Central Office Building
1/29—Legislative Breakfast—8:00 am—Lake Placid Crowne Plaza
Last Updated: 2/2/16
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