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Superintendent's Message
Massena Central School Board of Education Update
September 9, 2016

 
The Board of Education Meeting for September 15, 2016 will begin at 6:30 pm in Room 314 of Massena High School.  It is anticipated that the Board will go into executive session at 6:30 pm to discuss such topics as personnel on the agenda prior to the regular meeting.
 
Student Ex-Officio Representatives
 
In May, the voters approved the inclusion of student ex-officio representatives to the Board of Education. This week, the HS Student Council voted senior Camryn Peets as President of Student Council and she will also be the representative to the BOE.  Junior Rachel Hurlbut was voted in as Vice President and will be the alternate.  Both students will attend the BOE meeting on Thursday to be introduced to the Board. Camryn will take her seat at the Board table at that time.
 
Where Everyone Belongs (WEB)
 
The Where Everyone Belongs (WEB) program is a Junior High initiative which helps transition new 7th graders through many team building activities.  Led by teachers Christine Sweet and Wendy Lashomb, the WEB Leaders (8th grade mentors) organize orientation in late summer and a variety of events throughout the school year. Listed below are some of these activities. At the BOE meeting on Thursday, the group will provide a presentation about their important work.
 
1.  Back to School Dance (September)
 
2.  WEB Follow Up (Each month the WEB Leaders meet with their team and discuss a topic to help their 7th graders adjust.  Examples of topics: organization, managing time, test preparation, handling social situations, etc.) 
 
3.  WEB Applause (When teachers see/hear students in the junior high going above and beyond what is expected, they can fill out a postcard that states what the student did and WEB Leaders personally hand this postcard to the student and gives them an "applause" and a treat.) 
 
4.  WEB Alert (When teachers feel a student needs some extra help, kindness, support they fill out a postcard and the advisers decide if the situation can be handled by a WEB Leader or if the situation requires guidance/adult support.  They try to focus on as many student to student conversations as possible.)
 
5.  Christmas Magnets (The day before winter break, WEB Leaders attach a message to the lockers of their team members saying things like, "Merry Christmas.  Have a nice vacation.")

6.  February/March Tournament (WEB Leaders create a silly kind of tournament where each team competes against each other.  This happens 2:30-3 as a way for WEB Leaders to meet and touch base with their team.  Examples of Tournament:  pillo pillow, WEBlympics, Chick Ball)
 
7.  Red/White Night (In June, WEB combines a 7th grade team and 8th grade team and they compete in silly activities to earn points and become the champions.  Example of silly activities: magazine relay, hungry hippo, volleyball using yoga balls, etc.)
 
8.  Azure Mountain Hike (In the fall the PE teachers take the 7th graders to Azure Mountain for a hike.  Our WEB Leaders go to continue making a connection with our 7th graders.)
 
New Staff Introductions
 
This year, we have a larger than normal group of new staff given 20 retirements, additional ELA and math interventionists, and some leaving for opportunities elsewhere.  On Opening Day, I introduced 29 new staff and there are a few more left to fill on Thursday’s Board agenda.  As part of our orientation process, I have invited them to the Board meeting for introductions by the building principals.  A PowerPoint presentation which includes pictures and information on our new hires is attached to the Board agenda.
 
School Opening
 
This week, saw the return of our students for the 2016-17 school year.  It was great to see them back in the classroom for a new year of learning and opportunities to grow academically and socially. I want to thank all of our administration, faculty, and staff for their dedicated efforts to provide a strong welcome back to our students and their families.
 
Our opening enrollment dipped from 2015-16 largely at the elementary level. It is important to note that these are comparisons from the beginning of each school year and do not reflect changes occurring throughout the 2015-16 school year in terms of student transience. Below is a chart comparing the last three years. I have attach a more detailed enrollment breakdown to the Board agenda.  Due to this decline we combined the Junior Kindergarten classes at the Madison and Nightengale elementary schools. We will continue to monitor our enrollment numbers and make staffing and program decisions accordingly.
 
Schools 2014-15 Beginning Enrollment 2015-16 Beginning Enrollment 2016-17 Beginning Enrollment Difference 2015-16 vs. 2016-17
Massena High School 944 866 870 +4
JW Leary Junior High 430 435 436 +1
Jefferson ES 489 474 468 -6
Madison ES 492 490 452 -38
Nightengale ES 488 488 462 -26
Out of District Special Education 42 40 40 0
         
Total 2,885 2,793 2,728 -65

 
Here is a North Country This Week article about the challenges of hiring educators given the shallower pools of applicants.
 
Here is a Courier Observer article about the opening of schools around the region.
 
Real Property Tax Law §485-a - Mike Ward
 
The District has received a request from Mayor Tim Currier to pass a resolution which would provide a tax exemption to any person or corporation who is interested in converting a current commercial property into a mixed business and residential usage.  This specific type of exemption is authorized under NYS Real Property Tax Law §485-a. The purpose of instituting this economic development tool in Massena is to attract investors in the downtown area. The Massena Village and Town have both passed local laws allowing for the exemption.  Town Assessor Mike Ward will attend the BOE meeting to discuss the law and the background of the Village’s request. I have attached information from Mayor Currier and the Village’s local law filing to the BOE agenda.
 
June 2016 Regents Exam Results
 
At the last Board of Education meeting Director of Curriculum Stephanie Allen presented the results of the 2016 NYS Grade 3-8 ELA and math assessments. On Thursday, she will provide the 2016 NYS Regents Exams results as well. We will attach the results to the Board agenda for your review.
 
District Goals 2016-17
 
At the August Board of Education meeting, I discussed the draft District Goals for 2016-17.  They are now on the Board agenda for final review and approval. The advancement of our Strategic Plan created during the 2015-16 school year will be a critical piece of our goals going forward.  This includes improving student attendance, raising assessment scores, and increasing graduation rates. It also involves a closer look at potential consolidation of schools. 
 
Freshmen Academy Coordinator Proposal
 
At the August Board meeting, we listened to a presentation from High School ELA Teacher Amanda Hamilton on the reinstitution of the Freshman Orientation program.  As discussed, the Freshmen Academy is intended to help 9th graders transition from middle school to high school.  A team of teachers will focus mainly on freshmen classes where they can tailor instruction, programs, and services to their needs.  Classes will largely be held in one wing of the building for this “school within a school” concept.  Teachers will have six classes and a common planning time.
 
To launch and sustain the program, I am recommending that the Board designate a Freshmen Academy Coordinator.  This proposal is attached to the BOE agenda.
 
Resolution -  Nurse Substitutes Pay Rate - LPN Certified
 
There is a resolution on the BOE agenda to change the daily rate from $70/day to $80/day for substitute Licensed Practical Nurses. This original $70/day rate established by the Board at the Reorganizational meeting in July was incorrect.
 
Other News
 
Massena Drug Free Coalition Sponsors “Chasing the Dragon”

 
On Thursday, I attended the press conference where a coalition of law enforcement officials including the US Attorney’s Office announced the 25 year prison sentence of Patrick Lloyd who was convicted of trafficking heroin in the Massena community. This announcement was followed by an outstanding event sponsored by the Massena Drug Free Community Coalition which emphasized the scourge of opiate usage and the many people who are trying to help deal with the problem. This included the showing of the powerful documentary “Chasing the Dragon” highlighting the impact of drugs on several addicts. The film was followed by a panel discussion by those deeply involved in the issue.  I want to thank our law enforcement agencies for their concerted efforts to get these drugs off the street and protect our children, families and community. I also want to thank the Massena Drug Free Community Coalition for sponsoring this exceptional event and their work in promoting a safe and healthy community.
 
Here is a Courier Observer article about the “Chasing the Dragon” event.
 
Albany Update
 
Below is information from NYSCOSS Deputy Director Bob Lowry regarding some key issues impacting our schools.
 
Lead Testing in School Drinking Water

Governor Cuomo signed legislation requiring school districts to test for lead in drinking water earlier this week. The State Health Department simultaneously issued implementing regulations. You can read them here.

The regulations require testing in all schools serving kindergarten through grade five by September 30th this year and in schools serving grades six through 12 by October 31, again this year. Districts which have already tested since January 1, 2015 may be able to avoid re-testing if the sampling was done consistent with the regulations. Samples must be analyzed by a laboratory approved by the Health Department.

We have already advised the Governor’s Office that the timelines are extremely tight and perhaps impractical – do the approved labs have the capacity to handle all the samples that will be arriving in the compressed time frame, for example? We also urged that districts which attempted to do the right thing by testing earlier be given benefit of the doubt to limit demands for re-testing.
We expect there will be further guidance coming from the Health Department soon and we will share it.

School Finance Lawsuit

In 2014, the Council joined a coalition – New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights (NYSER) – bringing a lawsuit challenging the Gap Elimination Adjustment, the tax cap, and the personal income growth cap on School Aid as impairing the state’s ability to meet its constitutional promise of a sound basic education for all schoolchildren and directing the state to implement a funding system that assures all districts the capacity to fulfill that promise.

Yesterday, a mid-level state court unanimously rejected a request by the state to dismiss the case. The state contended that it has satisfied the requirements of the 2006 final decision in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity litigation.

Barring an appeal by the state to the highest court, the case could now proceed to trial.

School finance lawsuits take years to resolve. But they can be effective in drawing attention to advocacy issues. We made the decision to join the lawsuit in part to emphasize our objections to a financial structure that sets up many districts for eventual failure.

Upcoming Events
 
9/12—Tax Collection Meeting—4:00 pm—Town Hall
9/13—Madison Elementary Open House—5:00 pm
9/14—Nightengale Elementary Open House—5:00 pm
9/15—Jefferson Open House—5:00 pm; BOE Meeting—6:30 pm—HS Room 314
9/20—Junior High Open House—6:30 pm
Last Updated: 9/28/16
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