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Superintendent's Message
Massena Central School Board of Education Update
November 25, 2016

 
The Board of Education Meeting for December 1, 2016 will begin at 5:30 pm in Room 314 of Massena High School.  It is anticipated that the Board will go into executive session at 5:30 pm to discuss such topics as personnel on the agenda prior to the regular meeting at 6:00 pm.  
 
Happy Thanksgiving
 
I hope that everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday and was able to spend quality time with family and friends.
 

 
NYS Real Property Law 485-A 
 
At the 11/17 Board of Education meeting, Town Assessor Mike Ward presented a proposal by the Village of Massena to implement a tax exemption under NYS Real Property Law 485-A in an effort to revitalize the downtown area.  The resolution, previously enacted by the Town and Village of Massena, provides a tax exemption to any person or corporation who is interested in converting a current commercial property into a mixed business and residential usage.  I have placed this topic on the 12/1 agenda for further review and discussion.
 
The Board has basically three options in consideration of the Village of Massena's request:
 
1. Take no action or vote down the resolution for the exemption. The result would be the same in denying the exemption.
2. Approve the 485-A exemption for the entire school district.
3. Approve the 485-A exemption for the portion of the school district within the Village limits. 
 
Here is a Courier Observer article which contains information about the 11/17 Board presentation.  It is further down the page after the NYPA repurposing plan.
 
Instrument Trading Results--Music Department
 
At the 11/13 Board of Education meeting, Music Department Chair Jon Hunkins presented a plan to trade in old musical instruments to obtain newer ones though a company called "One Man Band" (http://theonemanband.us/).  The intent is to save the District money and clean out unused inventory that takes up storage space.  It would also get instruments in students’ hands that they are currently not able to supply due to lack of instruments and increased student numbers.
At the time, the Board requested an update once the transaction had been completed.  I will provide the update at the 12/1 meeting along with a resolution to accept the trade.  Attached to the Board agenda is the inventory list along with the contract from the organization which notes the instruments to be received. The instruments are:
2 used Baritone Saxophones
2 used Yamaha Tubas
 
Mr. Hunkins was satisfied with the trade and is requesting approval by the Board of Education.
 
Special Education Program Review
 
One of our District goals for 2016-17 is to "Maximize the instructional and financial efficiency of services for students with disabilities."  To accomplish this objective we proposed the following action plan as previously presented to the Board of Education:
 
Utilize an educational consultant to review special education program.
 
            a. Form a committee of stakeholders to work with consultant.
 
            b. Assess program model and continuum of services within the special education   program.
 
            c. Evaluate data such as student achievement and referral rates to identify strengths and     area of improvement for the program.
 
            d. Review staffing levels and program budget for potential efficiencies.
 
            e. Final report to Board of Education.
 
We have researched consultants who have experience in reviewing special education programs and are prepared to make a recommendation to the Board. Funding has been allocated in the 2016-17 budget for this work. I will discuss further at the Board meeting on Thursday.
 
 
 
School Budget 2017-18
 
As November draws to a close we will once again begin the process of building our budget for the following school year.  This will include our first Finance Committee meeting which is being scheduled for December at which time we plan to discuss the budget calendar and a fiscal forecast among other topics.  
 
On December 4-5, 2016, I will be in Albany as the region's representative to the NYSCOSS State Legislative Committee. The focus of this group is to advocate for our public schools including the equitable distribution of state resources.  During this trip, I will be meeting with the Governor’s Office and Division of the Budget and with Senate Republican Counsel, Finance, and Education Committee Chair’s staff.  Meetings with Assembly Democrats’ Program and Counsel and Ways and Means staff are also in the process of being scheduled.  These meetings should provide some insight about what we might expect from the state for school aid in 2017-18. 
 
The following is an update from NYSCOSS Deputy Director Bob Lowry in regard to the state aid outlook:
 
            Realized revenue from the personal income tax (PIT) continues to fall below estimates.     The Division of Budget reported last week that PIT collections through September            decreased by another $404 million over the estimate in their first quarter update and is      now $1.4 billion below the estimate in the initial budget plan. This current year shortfall           is being offset by lower than projected state spending and increased resources from other    sources, including bank settlements.
 
            In its Mid-Year Financial Plan Update released last week, the Governor's Budget Division projects a budget gap for the 2017-18 fiscal year of $689 million. However, this projection assumes that the state will continue the practice under Governor Cuomo of holding total spending growth to no more than 2 percent; this would require as yet unspecified cuts totaling $2.8 billion, bringing the total structural deficit for next year to    $3.5 billion, or 3.5 percent of total state operating funds expenditures. For perspective, the comparable projection a year ago was for a 2.5 percent structural deficit.
 
            These projections assume a $1.1 billion (4.5 percent increase in School Aid) based on a cap tying increases in School Aid to change in statewide personal income. It is expected that the latter figure will come in somewhat lower – around 4 percent, which would set the School Aid increase at about $980 million. It is important to understand, however, that the Governor is obligated to submit a balanced budget – there will be reductions in projected spending to close the structural deficit explained above. It is also true that the    Governor has tended to treat the School Aid growth cap as both a ceiling and a floor for his proposal and that, most often, the Legislature adds to his recommendation.
            Finally, it is important to note that this projected budget gap assumes that the "millionaire's tax" (increased tax rates for certain high income earners) will expire at the end of next year – December 31, 2017. If this tax rate is not extended, the amount of revenue available for school aid and other legislative priorities will be greatly reduced, particularly beginning in 2018-19, when its full annual effect will be felt. Extended the higher rates would reduce projected budget deficit.
 
Here is a one-page piece I wrote summarizing the implications for School Aid of the mid-  year financial update released by the Governor's Budget Division last week.
 
Donation to JeffersonMadison & Nightengale Schools - Wildlife Federation - $500 Each   
 
The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) received a grant from the Alcoa Foundation to develop and implement the “ALCOA Waste-Water-Watts Project” (ALCOA W3, for short) in the United States through the Eco-Schools USA program. Our partner organization, the Foundation for Environmental Education, is working with its member organizations in Australia, Brazil, Norway, and Italy on the project at the same time. Schools in both the United States and in these four other countries will be addressing three Eco-Schools’ Pathways (or Themes):
 
1) Consumption and Waste
2) Water
3) Energy
 
NWF recruited schools to participate where ALCOA has operations.  They agreed to fund three (3) schools in the area.  The $500 is seed grant money.  The projects undertaken by the schools must be coordinated with the local ALCOA facility and will include:
 
  • A professional development workshop for up to 2-3 teachers per school with $100 stipends provided for each teacher
  • On-the-ground support to the schools (site visits)
  • Work with schools to host an ALCOA Volunteer Day or Days to coincide with ALCOA's month of service (October).  Schools receive an additional $500 for this event.
The schools' responsibilities would be to provide workshop space; have teachers complete pre- and post-surveys of their experience and administer pre- and post-surveys to students to gauge increase in knowledge and interest in STEM; schools will register as a NWF Eco-School and certify as a Bronze award level in the choice of items 1-3 above; and schools will organize and host an event or volunteer day.
 
Other News
Nightengale Students' Essays Featured on Senator Griffo's Website
We are pleased to announce that students in Cathy Ashlaw's class recently had their Thanksgiving essays posted on Senator Griffo's webpage.  See link below.
https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/articles/joseph-griffo/thanksgiving-essays-and-contributions-sd-47-0
School Business Officials Call for School Aid Increase (Report from Hinman Straub)
The New York State Association of School Business Officials (NYSASBO) released its 2017-18 State School Aid proposal, which calls for a $1.9 billion increase in formula and categorical aids.  The group is also seeking an additional $25 million in state support for increases for Career and Technical Education (CTE) and $25 million to support a farm-to-school initiative.  The group is also recommending implementing changes to the real property tax cap, including counting school district construction costs for BOCES instructional spaces in the capital exclusion.
 NYSABO Executive Director Michael Borges said:
 “By completely phasing out the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) in 2016, New York State took the first step toward providing adequate school funding. This year, we are calling on the State to finish what they started last year and fully fund the Foundation Aid formula. This combined with adjusting several reimbursement rates will ensure that our students receive an adequate and equitable education at a cost taxpayers can afford.”
Massena Air Service Survey
 
The Town of Massena is currently reviewing two proposals by airlines to provide Essential Air Service from Massena International Airport to regional air service hubs. As part of this review process, the Town Council is reaching out to large employers in our area that may utilize air travel as part of their business operations.
 
The two proposals, from Massachusetts-based Cape Air and California-based Boutique Air, are somewhat similar and yet significantly different. 
 
Cape Air proposes to continue its three daily roundtrips to Albany with connecting service to Boston on nine-passenger Cessna aircraft. In a recent presentation at Massena Airport, Cape Air said they plan to begin adding new aircraft to their fleet in 2018.
 
Boutique Air proposes three roundtrips to four possible destinations: Albany, Boston, Buffalo or Baltimore. Because the airline utilizes two different nine-passenger aircrafts; either the Pilatus or King Air, and all flights will be direct. The airline also said they can fly to any two of the cities in its proposal, with the three flights divided between the two cities.
 
To listen to the greater Massena community before a decision is made to express support for one of the proposals by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Dec. 9 deadline, the Town Council will be holding a public meeting on Nov. 30 at 5:30 p.m. in Room 30 on the second floor of the Massena Town Hall, 60 Main St.
 
You are encouraged to attend this meeting if you have questions or concerns about either or both of the proposals. If you would like a copy of the proposals, or if you wish to submit comments electronically, please email supervisor@town.massena.ny.us.
 
Thank you in advance for taking the time to consider Massena International Airport for your business travel. Moreover, if you are currently using the airport, please accept our gratitude and encouragement for continuing to travel with us.
 
Albany Update
 
The following is information from NYSCOSS Deputy Director Bob Lowry on significant issues impacting public education in New York State.
 
November Board of Regents meeting leads to discussion on significant issues


This month’s Board of Regents meeting included discussions about significant education policy and finance issues that the Regents will look to address in the coming months and years.
 
The Regents received a presentation from their Regents Examination Work Group by its chair, former Herricks superintendent and recipient of the Council’s Distinguished Service Award, Jack Bierwirth.
 
The work group found that New York’s high school diploma requirements are exceptionally complicated compared to other states and the distinctions are not actually used by colleges or employers. The work group recommends creating a set of requirements for a single Regents diploma, with opportunities for endorsements to signify student strengths in particular areas. The work group did call for a separate group to consider specific policies for students with disabilities.
 
A key idea for the work group is “The best indicator of college and career readiness is the rigor of a students’ high school curriculum” – not achieving a particular score on two Regents Exams. It said there should be no one definition of college and career readiness and instead recommended assuring the availability of data useful to colleges, employers, and the military for their decision-making. For example, it recommends convening a committee of high school guidance counselors and college admissions officers to identify what transcript data would be most useful.
 
The work group recommended that the Board move away from the 0-100 number scores used for Regents examinations, and instead score students based on a 1-5 level with a score of 3 considered a passing mark – similar to scoring systems for AP and IB. It said, “We recognize the appeal of the traditional 0-100 scale to many. But we believe the 0-100 scale has become so distorted that it would be to everyone’s benefit, on balance, to start with a new scale…”
 
If the Board adopts the work group’s proposal, it would mark a stark departure from the direction that the Board was heading when it endorsed higher passing scores on the English and math Regents exams for the Class of 2022. Jack’s presentation and proposal was well received by the Board. We will continue to work with him and the Regents as discussions on these recommendations proceed.
 
In a surprising and disappointing move, the Department and Board announced on Monday that they would not alter the number of days used to administer grades 3-8 English language arts and math assessments. The Council and other organizations were hopeful that action would be taken to reduce the number of days in an effort to alleviate parental concerns regarding over testing. The Department and the Board argued no further changes should be made until the new standards are in place to establish a baseline for comparability purposes.
 
The Department’s announcement provoked a firestorm of criticism. On Tuesday, Chancellor Rosa indicated the Department will continue conversation surrounding this issue, opening the door for potential reconsideration later this year.
 
The Board also discussed a framework for the 2017-18 state aid proposal. Issues discussed included a timeframe for phasing-in Foundation Aid and targeted funding for certain programs such as pre-kindergarten expansion and English language learners. There were some conversations that suggested the Board may consider recommending that the legislature and governor attach more strings to unrestricted foundation aid dollars in an effort to move their agenda forward. This is a troubling development as it would infringe on local control and would reduce the ability of superintendents to prioritize Foundation Aid dollars in a manner that they and their boards deem appropriate. We have already begun the process of speaking to members of the Board to ensure they are aware of the pitfalls if this type of concept is adopted.
Education in the coming era of Trump


Come January 20, 2017, the Republicans will control the Congress and the presidency. President-Elect Donald Trump did not prioritize education issues during his campaign and therefore we are only guessing when it comes to what policies he may support. We do know that he supports school choice and charter schools. It has also been reported that the President-Elect has considered charter school boosters Michelle Rhee and Eva Moskowitz as the next United States Secretary of Education. Ms. Moskowitz subsequently disavowed interest.
 
Here is a compilation of quotes by Mr. Trump on education issues. Here is the education page from his campaign website. Here is a more analytical piece from Education Week.
 
Of immediate interest, it is unclear what will occur regarding final regulations on assessments, accountability, and supplement/not supplant regulations to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The federal comment periods for the proposed regulations have closed and we were expecting final regulations prior to the end of the year. However, Republicans in congress have called for all agencies to halt rulemaking efforts, though it is unlikely the Obama administration will agree to such a request.
 
Nonetheless, once the new administration takes office, it may seek to alter ESSA regulations. The State Education Department is currently planning to submit the state accountability plan by July 5, 2017. If there is significant upheaval to the accountability system via regulatory action, the Council may seek the assistance of our congressional delegation to delay the effective date of the accountability system.
 
State election results


In elections for State Assembly and Senate seats, the Democrats have increased their veto-proof majority in the Assembly by one seat; there is still uncertainty over control of the Senate.
In the Assembly, the majority Democrats lost a seat in Niagara County (the defeated incumbent had switched party affiliation last year) while apparently picking up one in the Plattsburgh area and another in Erie County, giving their party 107 out of the chamber’s 150 seats. At the beginning of the last two-year term, Democrats held 106 seats in the Assembly.
In Senate races, Republicans have won 30 seats, registered Democrats have won 30 seats, and Simcha Felder, previously elected as a Democrat who caucused with the Republicans, retained his seat running this time on the Democrat, Republican and Conservative lines. The outcomes of two Long Island races remain unsettled. Senate Education Committee Chair Carl Marcellino led his Democratic challenger by 2,425 votes (50.9% to 49.1%) as of last week. Republican incumbent Michael Venditto trailed his challenger by 33 votes with nearly 9,000 absentee ballots to count.
If Republicans manage to win the two outstanding Long Island races, they will hold an outright majority of seats (32-31). If, not control of the chamber will be determined by the decisions of Senator Felder and seven Senators elected as Democrats comprising the Independent Democratic Conference, which has aligned with the Republicans for the last six years. Over this past weekend, Senator Felder revealed that he plans to continue to organize with the republicans when the next legislative session convenes.
Here is an overview of New York State results. More detailed results for each contest can be found on the Board of Elections websitePolitico reported New York State results by region and noted that Donald Trump’s candidacy appears to have helped other Republican candidates in New York; in most areas he ran more strongly than his party’s other recent presidential nominees.
Upcoming Events
 
11/29--Regent Ouderkirk Dinner--5:15 pm--Northwest Tech in Ogdensburg; All Elem Band/Orchestra Concert--7:00 pm--HS Auditorium
12/1--Board of Education Meeting—5:30 pm—HS Room 314
12/5--Nightengale Winter Concert--7:00 pm--NG Gym
 
Last Updated: 12/9/16
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