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:
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:
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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|