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Superintendent's Message
Massena Central School Board of Education Update
February 5, 2016

Albany Update
The following information was sent by NYSCOSS Deputy Director Bob Lowry.
Legislative Budget Hearing

Last week, the Senate and Assembly's fiscal committees conducted their annual budget hearing.  
In spoken remarks, I began by thanking the legislators for their past support and explained that their efforts do make a difference.  I explained that over the past year we had seen some improvement in the financial outlook for schools, but with the confirmation of a near zero tax cap and the release of the Governor's proposed budget, superintendents have shared fears that they may need to cut positions or programs restored for the first time only this year.
I made some simple points about the tax cap and the Gap Elimination Adjustment.  With a 0.12 percent tax cap, over half the state's school districts would raise less than $25,000 and over three-quarters would not raise enough to fund the typical compensation for a single early career teacher.
I said that with state budget gaps gone, the Gap Elimination Adjustment should be ended as well.  I cited a chart on page 5 of our written testimony to show that it is hurting so called "average need" districts the most -- they are losing an average of $310 per pupil.
But I pointed to the chart to say that more must be done.  Ending the GEA would give high need rural districts only $13 per pupil more state aid than they are receiving this year and only $1 more than what the Governor proposes for next year.
As always, the State Education Commissioner and New York City Schools Chancellor led off the testimony.  New Commissioner MaryEllen Elia made a very favorable impression on the legislators.    Scheduled for one hour, her time extended closer to four. 
She argued for ending the Gap Elimination Adjustment, increasing Foundation Aid, funding various programmatic initiatives, and addressing needs of the Department itself.  Nearly all her time, however, was devoted to responding to legislator's questions, most concerning testing, standards, teacher evaluations, and other aspects of the state's education reform agenda. 
The Albany Times Union's Capitol Confidential blog reported,
Members commended Elia for her "poise" and "thorough" responses Wednesday — a marked contrast from budget hearings under her predecessor, John King.
"You could have easily told us, 'Oh, I'm new here, I'll get back to you with answers,'" said Assembly Ways & Means Chair Herman "Denny" Farrell, who thanked her for "thoughtful" testimony that lasted more than three hours.
Here is the presentation Commissioner Elia used.  The TU blog post provides a good summary of her exchanges with the legislators.
More School Finance Data

Two points in my budget testimony seemed to have struck a chord with listeners – my effort to put in simple, per pupil terms the impact of School Aid changes and the “yield” from a 0.12 percent tax levy increase.
Both points grew out of a conference call and email exchanges with our State Legislative Committee. Members recommended that districts work with three numbers: (1) the amount still being lost to the Gap Elimination Adjustment, (2) the amount “under-funded” on Foundation Aid compared the fully-phased-in formula, and (3) the amount that could be raised with a 0.12 percent tax levy increase.
Today I posted an updated version of the easy to read School Aid run we shared two weeks ago, adding all three pieces of data for all districts. They appear at the bottom of the screen for your possible use or adaptation; they do not appear on printed reports
Here is a link to the spreadsheet. 
The new version includes the 2015-16 enrollment for each district as reported for School Aid purposes. This is then used to calculate the following:  (1) the 2015-16 remaining GEA per pupil, (2) the Governor Cuomo’s proposed restoration per pupil, (3) the difference per pupil between the district’s 2015-16 Foundation Aid and its fully phased-in amount, and (4) the per pupil increase in Foundation Aid proposed by the Governor.
On the GEA, for some districts the point will be to show how much is still being lost per pupil; for others the point would be to show how little would be gained if fully restoring the GEA is the only change to School Aid made in the final state budget.
On the tax cap, I have listed the proposed tax levy from the May 2015 school district property tax report card. Recognizing that actual levy figures may vary, we are not publicly citing individual district calculations. The point is to give you a quick illustration of how much a 0.12 percent tax levy increase might bring in.  Publicly, I have spoken and written only of aggregate calculations.  Our advice would be to use actual figures for your district, including the impact of any exclusions from the cap.
Through much of the fall, it looked like we would have an actual zero percent tax cap.  The final figure for the allowable levy growth factor worked out to 0.12 percent.  The amounts that figure yields are so small I think they are actually more compelling than zero.  For example, speaking from a statewide perspective, 80 percent of districts would not raise enough to protect a single first-year teaching position receiving typical compensation.

At this point, we do not have much sense of how typical legislators may be viewing School Aid.  But it is apparent that more informed legislative officials recognize an increase significantly beyond what the Governor has recommended is necessary. 
Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan has said his chamber will not agree to a state budget that does not end the GEA this year.  That would require adding $244 million to the Governor's budget, resulting in a total year-over-year increase of $1.205 billion.  New York City would receive only 32 percent of that increase, far below is traditional share of nearly 39 percent.  It would be necessary to add $131 million to get New York City to its historical target, resulting in a total increase of $1.336 billion.  But that would still provide only limited help to other high need districts, so the Legislature would need to continue adding dollars to assist those districts and to still reach traditional share targets.

Regents Elections

Yesterday, the Assembly Education and Higher Education Committees began conducting interviews to fill two seats on the Board of Regents.  Both Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Vice Chancellor Anthony Bottar are stepping down.  The Chancellor serves in an at-large seat; her replacement can come from any part of the state.  Regent Bottar represents the Fifth Judicial District (Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida, Onondaga, and Oswego Counties).
There are about 50 applicants for the two seats; 17 were scheduled for interviews yesterday, mostly candidates for the Central New York seat.  Two retired superintendents were among those interviewed yesterday -- Jane Collins from Salmon River and Bob DiFlorio from Syracuse.  The interviews were webcast and remain available online here.  There will be more interviews next Tuesday and Wednesday.
POLITICO New York reported,
It became apparent Wednesday that members of the state Legislature aren't just looking for someone to fill a seat on state Board of Regents. They are looking for someone to help transition the state toward a quieter era in education.
“We’ve had a very turbulent last few years as far as education was concerned,” Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli, a Syracuse Democrat, told POLITICO New York. “I think there’s a lot of things that have to be revised. I think the regents are going to play a major role in that, and so I’m looking for someone who can get in there and do the work, and has the intellectual capacity to really get into all of the workings of what’s going on.”
The two new Regents will be elected through a joint session of the Assembly and Senate on March 8.
New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE), a coalition of groups urging families to refuse to participate in the grades 3-8 state assessments, has taken the step of recommending 15 candidates for consideration.  NYSAPE hasposted resumes and survey responses from its favored candidates.

Teachers Union Files Lawsuit Over Teacher Evaluations, Improvement Plans

The following is information from SED legal firm Hinman Straub.

On Tuesday, the state’s largest teachers union filed a lawsuit against the State Education Department (SED) and the Board of Regents, claiming that changes made to teacher evaluations and improvement plans violate collective bargaining rights.

New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) filed the suit in state Supreme Court in Albany on behalf of four teachers and six local teachers unions.  The union is challenging two specific provisions of current law.  The first gives school superintendents the ability to create and implement teacher or principal improvement plans for those rated “developing” or “ineffective” under the evaluation system. The second gives school superintendents the power to make corrective action to an evaluation plan if the state education commissioner says it does not meet the necessary criteria — essentially the authority to alter the plan agreed to by the school district and local union.

Read NYSUT’s lawsuit here.

National PTA Adopts Position on Student Assessments

ALEXANDRIA, Va., (Jan. 21, 2016) — As movements to opt children out of assessments have increased, National PTA’s board of directors adopted a new position statement on student assessment and opt-out policies during its January board meeting. The statement calls for all students to participate in high-quality, comprehensive assessments that measure their growth and achievement so all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

“Assessments provide valuable information that is used to guide instruction and other educational decisions to better meet the needs of students and ensure they receive necessary resources and supports that prepare them for long-term success,” said James L. Accomando, president-elect of National PTA. “We highly value family engagement in education and respect the rights of parents to make decisions on behalf of their children, however, National PTA believes the consequences of non-participation in state assessments can have detrimental impacts on students and schools.”

As outlined in the position statement, National PTA does not support state and district policies that allow students to be opted out of required state assessments that are designed to improve teaching and learning. Non-participation can result in a loss of funding and diminished resources and interventions for students, which would have a disparate impact on minorities and students with special needs and widen the achievement gap. Opting out also stalls innovation by inhibiting effective monitoring and improvement of programs, exams and instructional strategies, and could thwart transparency by providing incomplete data for states, districts and schools.

National PTA recommends that:
  • States and school districts clearly articulate to parents the assessment and accountability system in place at their child’s school, including required assessments, their purpose, when they will occur and when results will be available.
  • Schools and families engage in meaningful, two-way communication regarding assessments, including how schools and families can work together to use the data to support student growth and learning.
  • States and school districts conduct audits of their assessment systems to reduce low-quality, misaligned and redundant exams.

National PTA supports state assessment systems that are appropriately aligned with each state’s academic standards. The association believes a sound and comprehensive assessment system should include multiple measures of student growth and achievement that reflect the knowledge and skills students need when they graduate to make certain they are ready for college and/or the workplace.

“When used appropriately, assessments provide critical data to support student learning and readiness for postsecondary education and the workforce,” added Shannon Sevier, vice president of advocacy for National PTA. “It is essential that families, educators, school leaders and policymakers work together and are stewards of effective assessment systems to ensure all children receive a high-quality education that enables them to reach their full potential.”

Rural Schools Association Newsletter

Below is a link to the latest Rural Schools Association newsletter. 


Parent Involvement Survey Indicates Strong Support for MCS Special Education Services

On Friday, we received a correspondence from the Potsdam Institute for Applied Research who analyzes education data for the NYS Education Department.  It showed the results of a parent survey which was administered to gauge perceptions of the District’s special education services.  One hundred twenty seven surveys were returned and the overall approval rating was 96.1% thus exceeding the SED target percentage for positive parent surveys of 90%.  Attached is a copy of the survey results.

On-Line Petitions Follow Hockey Racial Remark
As reported earlier this week, a racial remark by one of our boys Varsity hockey team players during a game against Salmon River led to major unrest within the community.  Thankfully, it did not spill over into conflict within the school among the student body.  However, it did lead to petitions both for and against changing the Red Raider name. 
Here is an article on North Country Now with link to the various petitions.
Here is a Courier Observer article about the incident.
High School
News & Notes

Technology Day

Technology workshops were held at the high school on January 29, 2016. Leigh Stark from BOCES was here to offer sessions on eDoctrina. To date the Science, Social Studies, English and Math departments have been trained on aDoctrina. Each staff member who sat for the training, received a document camera. The cameras are a very useful tool in the classroom for scoring formative assessments. Randy Feiman also helped out training faculty on eDoctina. Chad Simpson presented the program Seesaw, and Amanda Hamilton presented on Plickers. Plickers is now being used in many classrooms. Plickers also gives teachers immediate feedback on formative assessments. Kara Warren and Jan Normile offered two sessions on Google and Bill Jaggers demonstrated the use of a variety tech apps such as Grade Cam, Remind, EdPuzzle, Kahoot, and Facebook.

Response from the staff was favorable and would like another day. We are looking at send 4 staff member to the Google Summit in February in Chateauguay and 5 to the Google Summit in Potsdam on April 29.

Winter Paradise

Winter Paradise was the theme of the winter ball held February 6, 2015. Students and their dates, again participated in an enjoyable evening created by Student Council. Once again, the chaperones had to shoo them out at 11:00, as they wanted to continue dancing.

Usually the dance is the culmination of Spirit Week with a pep rally on the Friday before the dance. Because the All County Music Festival was held this weekend, the band was not available to play at a pep rally. As an alternative to a pep rally, a parade for the athletes who participate in winter sports was held at 2:00pm on Friday February 5, 2016. Students and teachers lined the halls as the athletes paraded to ROCKY playing on the PA system.  This event was also well received. A pep rally will be schedule for the Spring Sports.

Students Council set up crew for the dance. Maggie Trombley, advisor, in the back row and AnneMarie

Miller is taking the picture.

All County Music Festival

Emily Allen and Kristen Page are pictured above after their spectacular performance in the All County A Capella Ensemble. Both ladies had featured solos in all three songs performed by the group. Jarrid Gardner was on hand with several solos as well. Conductor for the ensemble was Jeff Thatcher who is best known as a current member of the vocal group, Rockapella.  Songs sung by the ensemble included Beatles Medley, Sky Full of Stars and Lips are Movin’. Emily, Kristen and Jarrid also have major parts in this year’s production of The Wizard of Oz. Thank you to Mr. Lincoln for all the hard work practicing with these students.

Several members of the High School Band performed at All County. The All County Band was conducted by Tim Savage, band director at Canton Central. The songs performed were Charter Oak, Greenwillow Portrait and Fate of the Gods.  The following students were selected to participate in the county band:

Alexandra Conn – flute                                             Koeby Judware - Trumpet
Jenna Tarbell – clarinet                                            Brittney Martin - Trumpet
Nicholas Southworth – bass clarinet                          Simon LaGarry - Trumpet
Riley Ackerman – bass clarinet                                 Alex Lippassaar - Trombone
Kelly Southwick – alto saxophone                             Joseph Marcello - Percussion                              
Camryn Peets – Euphonium                                           Alyssa Eubank – Percussion

Thanks to Jon Hunkins, band director, for all his hard work and the many years of dedication. Ken Beckstead was recognized for his many years of dedication to the Massena music program and was wished a happy retirement.

JW Leary Junior High
News & Notes
  • On January 22, 2016 Catherine Donahue, Brent McCarthy, and Christine Sweet attended the Instructional Rounds overview training at BOCES in Canton. They are now prepared for, and signing up to attend an actual instructional rounds at one of the participating North Country Schools. Nicole Charleson and Katherine Hayes will also be attending the training. It was scheduled for Wednesday February 3, 2016, but with both Massena and Canton closing schools, it was cancelled and will be rescheduled. They will attend then. This will give the Junior High School a cadre of teachers and administrators prepared to conduct instructional rounds at some future point. 
  • Teacher Nicole Charleson has added a grade 8 Art class for enrichment  at the JH this year. This additional elective will allow some grade 8 students interested in art to get additional instruction. 
  • On Thursday January 28, 2016 , several teachers at the Junior High presented small instructional classes designed to help their colleagues incorporate technology into their classrooms. Laurel Czajkowski, and Catherine Donahue presented fun formative assessments (Plickers, Kahoot, etc.). Katherine Hayes presented YouTube-managing/using playlists. Heather Taylor and Catherine Donahue presented Google Drive. April Charleson taught the use of StoryBoard.  Sandy Gleason presented Schoology and its uses for educators. Catherine Donahue and Katherine Hayes presented a Tech Sandbox, where teachers could just come in with questions about technology or to try out other programs. BOCES also provide E-doctrina Training. The workshops were well received. 
  • The J.W. Leary Student Council is helping to replace the Reading Center easy-chairs in our library.  $200 has been allotted by the Council and Hanno de Coning, Student Council President, and our librarian, Mr. Acton are working on obtaining new furniture for our students.  This will allow Mr. Acton to use our Book Fair profits to buy more books instead of furniture!  A big “THANKS!” goes out to the Leary student government. 
  • There are two student teachers this semester at J.W. Leary: Josh Eassa from Syracuse is student teaching in ELA with Mr. French, and Carter M. Jones from Morrisville, NY. He is student teaching in ELA with Kathleen Dodge. 

Valentines Dance February 5, 2015
Jefferson Elementary School
News & Notes


Jefferson Kids Care

Jefferson Kids Care continues to meet every Wednesday from 3:15-4:15 to knit, crochet, quilt, and sew. A core group of dedicated fifth and sixth grade students volunteer their time after school to create hats, quilts, and blankets for someone in need of cheer and warmth. The students are guided by Jefferson teachers Mrs. Cathy Dix, Miss Amanda Pierce, Miss Courtney Blanchard, Mrs. Elizabeth Layo, Mr. Chad Graham, Mrs. Sherry Ouimet, retired Jefferson teacher; and Mrs. Gail Schneider, community volunteer. The group is always looking for donations of yard and fabric to add to their supplies.


Internet Safety

The 5th and 6th Grade students at Jefferson Elementary School attended an Internet Safety presentation on Thursday January 28th and Friday January 29th.  Special Agent Timothy Losito, with Immigration and Customs Enforcement of Homeland Security was  the presenter. He will be covered online safety tips, children as targets, cyber bullying, warning signs, strategies to stay safe online, and how to report inappropriate material found online. Parents were welcomed and encouraged to attend the presentation.

Nature Center Visits JK

On Monday, February 1st, the Robert Moses Nature Center visited Stacey Tyo's Junior Kindergarten classroom. Special guests, Linda Besio and Joel Joel Danko, brought various animal tracks and furs for the students to view. At the end of the presentation, the students were able to create their own book of tracks from animals such as: the bobcat, a raccoon, and a beaver. The Junior Kindergarten classes from the district will visit the nature center on Friday, February 5th for snowshoeing and a nature walk.  

Second Step Program for Kindergarten

Jefferson School Psychologist, Megan Castell, excitedly has become a new addition to the kindergarten classrooms. She recently began using the Second Step program to teach critical life skills such as getting along with others. The lessons take place over a twenty week period of time. She visits the classrooms once a week for thirty minutes.

The Second Step program teaches skills in the following areas:
  • Skills for learning
  • Empathy
  • Emotional Management
  • Problem solving

In addition the classroom visits, "home links" are sent home with students. These are simple, fun activities for parents and their child to complete together. They are great ways for parents to understand what their child was learning and for the child to show them what they know.

Feelin' Groovy Bookfair

The Jefferson Elementary Book Fair will take place during the week of February 8-12. Students will be able to browse and shop each day of this week during their scheduled "library" class. Parents and families are invited to browse for a good book on Wednesday evening during the Family Night from 3:30 to 5:30
Madison Elementary School
News & Notes


Junior Kindergarten prepares for their Field Trip to Hawkins Point

Linda Besio and Joel Danko visited us from the Nature Center in preparation for our Field Trip coming up on Friday (February 5th).  All 3 Junior Kindergarten classes will be going on a field trip to the Hawkins Point Visitors Center where (pending snow) they will snowshoe looking for animal tracks.  Today--Linda and Joel visited each JK Class in the district to show them books and samples of animal furs, animal tracks, and some animal skulls.

Mrs. Earl’s Fourth Grade studies Native American Culture and Traditions

Students in Mrs. Earl's fourth grade class at Madison Elementary recently completed a unit on Native American history, focusing primarily on the culture and traditions of the Iroquois and Algonquians. As part of the unit, students read and analyzed the novel Eagle Song, by Joseph Bruchac. The novel focuses on the experiences and struggles of fourth grader Danny Bigtree, who desperately misses his home on the Akwesasne Mohawk Reservation when his family moves to Brooklyn, New York. At the conclusion of the unit, students wrote an essay comparing and contrasting traditional Iroquois and Algonquian ways of life. The children also worked in cooperative groups to design and build model longhouses, which gave students a hands-on learning opportunity to showcase the knowledge they accumulated throughout the unit.
Important Upcoming Dates @ Madison
2/2/2016 Groundhog Day
Who Club Meeting, 7pm
JK Trip to Hawkins Point
SCLEMEA All County Chorus at OFA
Art Club, 2:45-4:00
Mid Winter Break - NO SCHOOL
2/25/2016 BOE Meeting, 7pm

Nightengale Elementary School
News & Notes

Staff Development-
I want to thank everyone who made our Staff Development on 1/28 and 1/29 so successful. The technology training was excellent opportunity for our “in house technology experts” to teach some of their classroom skills to their colleagues. Nightengale had five teachers present various technology trainings throughout the district. Many thanks to Melissa Power (Google Drive), Bill Lint (advanced smartboards), Brandon Downs (Class Dojo), and Erica Weems (Plickers), and Jennifer Gray (educational iPad apps).
We are gearing up for our second data meeting on February 8th. Students in grades 3-6 have been assessed using the STAR program. Grades K-3 have been re-assessed using the Dibles information. All of these data pieces are critical to making good decisions for our students in the intervention process. The teachers will bring all student data to the meeting and as a team we will make decisions about each individual child and how much academic support they need to be successful. Our next Data Meeting in 2/8/16.
Block II-
SUNY Potsdam’s Block II program begins in the next few weeks under the supervision of Susan Stacy. Nightengale has five teachers that having been willing to host a student teacher; William Lint, Shelley Carroll, Melisa Denney, Meaghan Janovsky, and Kerry Perretta.
Ms. Frary, 6th Grade Social Studies-
As part of my social studies curriculum and my mission to expose my students to current events outside of our community, I choose to spend one week on the topic of Syria and the crisis that has been going on since 2011.  
As a group, we read an article from Scholastic Scope magazine titled “We were just like you now we are refugees” highlighting the story of an 11 year old girl named Dania.  The article explained why the Syrian people are fleeing their country, where they are settling and what life was like before the war compared to the reality that they are now faced with.
My intention was to bring awareness to an issue that they could relate to and that would spark discussion. As we continued to read and discuss this article, the kids became completely absorbed. The students felt the need to do something, to be proactive in assisting kids just like themselves, that are struggling to start their lives over.
After researching and discussing many different options and with the help of the UNICEF website, the 6th grade students are doing a one day coin drive on Wednesday February 10th. The money raised will be donated through UNICEF to purchase winter clothing for the children who are now refugees of Syria.   
Crazy Hair Day and Chinese New Year Celebration In Erica Weems’ room

Noble Nighthawks January 22, 2016
Last Updated: 2/23/16
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