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Superintendent's Message
Massena Central School Board of Education Update
September 23, 2016

 
 
Fall is Officially Here
 
With the mild frost this morning, the fall season is officially upon us.  We look forward to all of the events and festivities which mark this wonderful season.
 

 
New York State School Superintendent’s Fall Summit
 
I am attending the NYSCOSS Fall Summit in Saratoga Springs from 9/25-27. The theme of the conference is “Cultivating the spirt within each child”.  The opening address was from Dr. Marc Brackett, Director of Yale University Center for Emotional Intelligence Schools. Dr. Brackett presents his research in many venues including the White House, where he was last week, and with Lady Gaga and Her Born This Way Foundation. He did an excellent job reinforcing the importance of understanding the emotional development of students. 
 

Dr. Brackett (left) with Lady Gaga
 
New Administrators Begin Work at MCS
 
I am excited to announce that our two newest members of the administrative team started this week at MCS.  Listed below is some background information on both leaders. We wish them all the best in their new positions.
 

Danielle Chapman, Principal of Madison Elementary School
  • Graduate of Massena CSD
  • BA Elem. Ed. (1996) SUNY Potsdam
  • MS Elem. Ed. (2001) SUNY Potsdam
  • CAS  Educational Leadership (2016) Saint Lawrence University
  • Elementary Teacher at Salmon River 1997--2012
  • Instructional Specialist at Salmon River 2012-16
  • Dean of Students at Salmon River Middle School  2015-16
 

Gavin Regan, Athletic Director 
  • Graduate of Potsdam CSD
  • BS Business Administration (1984) Norwich University
  • ING Financial Advisor 1992-2011
  • Key Bank Manager 2012-15
  • Vice President of New York State Amateur Hockey Association 1990-2002
  • Team Leader USA Women’s Hockey Team 2005-06
  • New York District Director USA Hockey, Inc. 1996-2014 
  • Vice President & International Chair, USA Hockey 2014-P 

Assemblywomen Addie Russell Visit
 
On September 13th, Assemblywomen Russell visited the district to discuss the impact of the $50,000 in bullet aid she provided in 2015-16.  This funding was used for a variety of expenditures including our strategic planning process and additional extracurriculars for students. Assemblywoman Russell also used this time to address Jon Putney’s 12th grade Participation in Government class and to read a story to Kindergarten students in Amanda Taraska’s class.  We appreciated the opportunity to discuss our district goals with Assemblywoman Russell and what she can do to assist us at the state level.
 
Albany Update
 
The following is information about the latest developments in Albany as it relates to public education. The report is provided by Board of Regents counsel Hinman Straub.
 
Governor Signs Bill to Mandate Lead Testing in New York Schools
 
On Tuesday, Gov. Cuomo announced that he has signed into law a bill which mandates that schools across the state test drinking water for lead contamination, and that the state Department of Health (DOH) has issued emergency regulations that require school districts test their water for lead contamination by Oct. 31, 2016, and report results to parents, DOH and local government officials.
 
Gov. Cuomo said:
 
“These rigorous new protections for New York’s children include the toughest lead contamination testing standards in the nation, and provide clear guidance to schools on when and how they should test their water.  As children begin another school year, I’m proud to sign this legislation, which marks a major step forward in protecting the public health and ensuring the future growth and success of students across the state.”
 
 Governor Calls for ‘Aggressive New Water Quality Protections’
 
On Wednesday, Gov. Cuomo called for “aggressive new water quality protections to protect New Yorkers and ensure clean drinking water.”  The heads of the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Department of Health (DOH) wrote to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and urged the EPA to “close a loophole in federal oversight that exempts public water systems that serve less than 10,000 people from its Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule program.”  They note that public water systems serving about 2.5 million New York residents are not required to be tested for these contaminants.
 
State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said:
 
"We firmly believe that the health and safety of our residents should not depend on the size of the town in which they live.  The EPA’s current testing requirements leave millions of New Yorkers in the dark about the quality of their water simply because they are not part of large water systems. If the EPA fails to act, we will move new legislation to mandate the testing of unregulated contaminants in the 9,000 public water systems across the state. The administration is also advancing legislation to require the testing of private wells – which currently have no federal oversight whatsoever. We urge the legislature to join us in supporting these critical actions.”
 
 Attorney General Launches Antitrust Investigation into EpiPen Maker
 
On Monday, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that his office has commenced an investigation into Mylan Pharmaceuticals, the maker of EpiPens. A preliminary by his office indicates that the company may have included “potentially anticompetitive terms” into its sales contracts with numerous local school districts.
 
The company’s decision to significantly increase the price of its EpiPen product, an injector that delivers a lifesaving dose of epinephrine to reverse severe allergic reactions, has led to widespread public criticism.
 
Attorney General Schneiderman said:
 
“No child’s life should be put at risk because a parent, school, or healthcare provider cannot afford a simple, life-saving device because of a drug-maker’s anti-competitive practices.  If Mylan engaged in anti-competitive business practices, or violated antitrust laws with the intent and effect of limiting lower cost competition, we will hold them accountable. Allergy sufferers have enough concerns to worry about—the availability of life-saving medical treatment should not be one of them. I will bring the full resources of my office to this critical investigation.” 
 
Department of Labor Finalizes Payroll Card Regulations
 
On Thursday, Gov. Cuomo announced that the state has adopted “the country’s most comprehensive payroll card protections for low-wage workers.”  The new regulations require payroll card companies to provide access to at least one fee-less ATM near where employees live or work, prohibits card issuers from receiving any remuneration for delivering wages via payroll card, and eliminate a host of fees, including those for account maintenance, overdraft and inactivity.
 
Gov. Cuomo said:
 
"These tough new standards protect some of our most vulnerable New Yorkers from predatory practices that seek to deny them a fair day's pay for a fair day's work.  By eliminating costly hidden fees and removing barriers to accessing money workers have rightly earned, these nation-leading regulations build upon this administration’s efforts to prevent worker exploitation and help ensure all employees are treated with fairness, decency and respect.”
 
State Aid Formula Under Review
 
Board member Loren Fountaine shared these articles with me in regard to potential options for reforming the education aid formula to make it more equitable.  These ideas are being advocated by Commissioner Elia and are under review by our regional school superintendents.  Though promising in their intent, it will be important to obtain the data concerning its impact on the Massena CSD.  We expect to hear more in the near future as these formulas are spelled out in relation to specific districts.
 
http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Aid-formula-might-be-reassessed-9218699.php
 
http://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2016/09/12/new-york-state-officials-rethinking-which-students-should-count-as-poor/#.V9gePc5TGP8
 
St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES E-Blast
 
The following is information from the St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES e-blast. It covers a variety of topics including APPR, revised curriculum standards, and new teacher/principal certification requirements.

Updates from Commissioner Elia:

REMINDER: View her letter to teachers and school leaders and "welcome back" video here.
  • At a meeting this week, Commissioner Elia shared that this has been a year filled with both change and stability. She reminded us that education is a lot of work and we need to not only do the work but ensure we are communicating with our parents and community.
  • During her 15 months with the department she has made every effort to listen and learn. Some of the changes that have occurred include:
    • Modifications to the assessments including providing unlimited time to students
    • Inclusion of educators to write and review test items
    • Release of 75% of test items this year, more than any other state in the nation.
  • Parent reports have been revised and now include easier to read font sizes, and more parent friendly language.  It is encouraged that you compare the two and share the changes.
  • Did you know that 50% of students who opted out this year were new to the opt out movement and 50% of parents who opted their students out last year had their students test this year?
    •  Overall the opt-out rate was flat.
  • The Commissioner recommends that we continue to encourage our staff to submit feedback when requested.
    • She has heard from many educators and parents that they don’t like the standards but they have seen their students doing incredible things that they never did before.  
  • Although there were complaints about the standards, both teachers and parents appreciate the progress that students have made.
  • She reminded us that standards should be reviewed yearly and changed every 4-5 years to reflect the changes in our world and in our students.

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
  • Our education system has transitioned through a number of federal education acts over the years.
  • Most recently we have been through No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and are now heading into the era of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
  • More information about this act and how it differs from the previous legislation can be found in the PowerPointcreated by SCDN representatives who are part of the ESSA advisory committees.

APPR
  • Dr. Jennifer French will be offering two webinars to provide an overview of the APPR changes and the new CTLE requirements.  
  • These sessions will be repeated once and will be recorded.  
  • REMINDER: 3012-D has changed the way teachers and leader evaluations are scored. No longer will educators receive a score on the 0-100 point scale that is attached to the HEDI rating.  
    • Now the final outcome for all will be just a HEDI rating.  
    • The ability to set conversions has been significantly reduced and replaced by a more structured scale. 
    • Assessments used for SLOS must all be state provided or state approved. 
    • All teachers will be observed by a minimum of two evaluators.  
  • Click here for more information.

Continuing Teacher and Leader Education (CTLE):
  • REMINDER: Effective the 2016-17 school year all educators may register to teach in New York State. 
    • This requirement affects all educators with NYS teacher/administrative certification including substitutes and those with older permanent certification.  
    • Educators with professional certification will continue to need professional development hours, but now the requirement is 100 hours every 5 years from a "State Approved Sponsor" of professional development or formal course through a college or university.
    • Districts and BOCES must apply to be sponsors of professional development and are required to upload professional development plans.
  • Click here for more detailed information.

Standards Revision:
  • Over the past few months the standards review committee has met to review the math and ELA standards.  
  • This PowerPoint documents the work that has been done and next steps.
  • NYSED will soon be soliciting feedback on the proposed changes.

NYSCOSS Update
 
The following is the latest information from Albany as presented by NYSCOSS Deputy Director Bob Lowry:

Release of draft learning standards for English language arts and mathematics
Yesterday, the State Education Department released draft learning standards for English language arts and mathematics. The changes were shaped by the results of last fall’s “Aim High New York” survey and the work of over 130 teachers, administrators, parents and others. The Department will accept comments on the drafts through November 4, then make changes. There may be another round of public comment on revised drafts. SED’s plan is to have the Regents approve new standards early in 2017.

It’s not possible to quantify the significance of the changes, but Commissioner Elia did say that changes are recommended to 60 percent of the ELA standards and 55 percent of the math standards. We issued a news release. We did not and could not now react to the substance of the proposed revisions but did say that the process the Department is now following is promising. Our statement also stresses yesterday’s release is only a first step and that what follows will matter more in determining whether the changes will actually benefit students.

Small cities’ school finance lawsuit suffers setback

State Supreme Court Justice Kimberly O’Connor issued a long awaited decision in a lawsuit by eight small city school districts challenging the constitutionality of the state’s education funding system (Maisto v. State of New York). Justice O’Connor dismissed the small cities’ complaint.

http://nyscoss_imis20.informz.net/z/cjUucD9taT01OTIyNjE0JnA9MSZ1PTEwNjE4NjAxNTgmbGk9Mzc5Njg5MDE/index.htmlWhatever the merits of the original complaint, I find the ruling feeble. The key issues in school finance litigation come down to these: (1) Are children being denied the opportunity for a sound basic education promised by the state constitution? (2) Does the state’s system of education finance cause those student to be deprived of the constitution’s promise? The original Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit needed resolve a third issue – defining what is a sound basic education. In that case, the state’s highest court ruled that it requires “a meaningful high school education” which prepares young people to fulfill civic responsibilities (voting and jury service).

In addressing the first issue in this case, the Justice implies, but does not directly state, that students are not receiving the opportunity for a sound basic education. She did not at all address the second question, instead concluding that,

The fundamental question, then, before this court is whether the State can alter or adjust the education reform plan that was put into place [in 2007 with, among other elements, the Foundation Aid formula] by changing the levels of funding for each school district based upon the fluctuation of the State’s fiscal condition, the needs of school districts, the level of local contribution and federal funding for the school districts, and other competing issues that are considered in the development of the New York State budget and still deliver on its obligation to ensure that children are provided the opportunity for a sound basic education.

The Justice concludes, “The answer to that question is yes.”

But this framing avoids addressing whether the subsequent changes to education funding have deprived students of the opportunity for a sound basic education. For me, at least, it raises the question, why did the Justice bother allowing admission during the trial of all the evidence from districts about inadequate school resources?

Here is an Albany Times Union article aboyt the decision: http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/School-funding-suit-loses-in-court-9233178.php

State budget news
Yesterday State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli issued his monthly cash report on state expenditures and revenues through August. State tax collections are now running $611 million (2.1 percent) below the amount projected in the enacted state budget. Receipts from the state’s largest revenue source, the Personal Income Tax, are off by $758 million (3.9 percent) while receipts from consumption and use taxes and other sources are over budget by $147 million. PIT receipts are down from the prior update while other revenues increased by more than the fall-off in the PIT.

The Comptroller said, “Personal income tax collections continue to lag while revenue from other tax sources was up. Quarterly tax payments due in September will provide a better picture of the state’s revenue outlook for the remainder of the year.”

Governor Cuomo now "proud" of how much New York spends on public schools
Last week, Politico New York reported that, "During a rare appearance at a public school, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday praised teachers and exchanged warm pleasantries with [New York City teacher union] president Michael Mulgrew, bragging about the amount of money the state spends on education."

Politico went on to note the Governor said, "Mike Mulgrew was exactly right. We have invested very heavily in education. We spend more per student in this state than any other state in the United States of America, and we’re very proud of that.”

Politico also notes the change in tone from the Governor over education spending from earlier in his tenure.

Alliance for Quality Education planning walk to commemorate 10th anniversary of CFE decision
The Alliance for Quality Education is planning a walk from New York City to Albany to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the final Court of Appeals decision in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit which ruled that the state's system of education finance unconstitutionally deprived new York City school children of their right to a sound basic education. The CFE decision led to the enactment of the Foundation Aid formula in 2007. 

AQE explains,

October 10, 2016 is the 10-year anniversary of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court decision which ruled that the state is systemically underfunding Black, Latino, and low-income students in many districts across NY. Today, our students are still suffering from this systemic neglect and we say: “enough is enough!” So we’re taking action, by walking 150 miles to Albany, to demand that NYS fully fund education in every district in NY.

The walk will begin on October 2 at New York City Hall, proceed with stops in the Hudson Valley, and end in Albany on October 11. There will also be walks joining up with the main walk, including one on Long Island starting on October 1 and in Schenectady on October 11.

If you or people within your community might be interested in joining the walk, more information can be found here.

Upcoming Events
 
9/29—BOE Policy Committee Meeting—6:30 pm—CAB
9/30—Hall of Fame Dinner—6:30 pm—HS Cafeteria
10/3—BOE Facilities Committee Meeting—5:00 pm—CAB
10/6—Staff Development (Half Day)
10/7—Staff Development (Full Day) Google Summit
Last Updated: 10/5/16
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