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Massena Central School Board of Education Update

February 24, 2017


National Association of School Psychologists Convention


This week, we were proud to have Massena represented at the National Association of School Psychologists Convention by our new school psychologist Megan Castell. Held this year in San Antonio, Megan presented a workshop entitled, Planning for Post-Secondary Transition: A Best Practitioner Conversation.  Over 60 people attended her session including Director of Special Services Susan Lambert. Congratulations Megan on a job well done!



NYS Real Property Law 485-A


At the February Board meeting, the Board of Education voted to support the Village of Massena’s request for enacting a tax abatement under for the NYS Real Property Law 485-A. The purpose of the abatement is to attract new businesses to the downtown area.  Though we had thought the Town of Massena had followed the Village in enacting a local law last year, we found out this week it was a supporting resolution only.


Due to the error, the Town of Massena is holding a public hearing on 2/28 so they can meet the 3/1 taxable deadline for the exemption to go into effect this year.  In speaking to counsel, the lack of Town action does not impact the Board of Education’s resolution in this matter. At least one of the municipalities were required to pass the local law prior to the school board action. Since the Village of Massena enacted the local law, we are all set.


Here is a Courier Observer article about the Town’s special meeting.


State Comptroller Office Report on School Funding


The following is information from NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli on a report prepared by his office on school funding.


Today, my office issued a report detailing regional trends in education funding, enrollment, and conditions across the state. The report analyzes school district financial and demographic information from nine separate regions outside of New York City.

Investments in New York’s public schools are vital at both the state and local level. By examining regional comparisons and trends in school district revenues, expenditures and student demographics, we can better inform the decisions of state lawmakers, education stakeholders and taxpayers.

Some of the key findings in our report include:

  • In 2014-15, total school district revenues were $37.7 billion, which includes federal and state aid, the STAR subsidy and local revenue. Local revenue, overwhelmingly from property taxes, made up more than half of total school revenues (54.5 percent), an increase of 3 percentage points from 2004-05. Over the same period, federal and state aid (including STAR) each declined slightly, by 1.4 and 1.6 percentage points, respectively;

  • The median per-pupil spending for school districts in 2014-15 was $22,658. The Mid-Hudson Valley had the highest median per-pupil spending rate at $26,636, while Western New York was lowest at $19,776. This measure varied greatly across the state and can be largely attributed to regional cost differences. The report notes that significant variations in per-pupil spending exist within each region; and

  • The percentage of students eligible for free- or reduced-price lunch was 39 percent in 2014-15, and 17 percent of students were considered to be living in poverty. The regional differences in these measures were significant in the Mohawk Valley with 53 percent of students eligible for free- or reduced-price lunches and 26 percent of students living in poverty. Long Island had the fewest students receiving free- or reduced-price lunches at 26 percent and only 8 percent living in poverty.

You can read the entire report on my website, by visiting: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/pubs/research/education/pdf/education.pdf

To view the report’s interactive regional map, you can visit: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/pubs/research/education/regionaleducationmap.htm


DiNapoli Releases January State Cash Report

State tax collections totaled nearly $62.7 billion through Jan. 31, a decline of $658.3 million or 1 percent from the same period last year, according to the state cash report issued by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. Year to date tax collections were $167.9 million higher than the latest projections included in the Third Quarter Update to the Financial Plan released with the Executive Budget on Jan. 17.


Here is a description of the January State Cash Report release.


NYS Attorney General and SED Commissioner Issue Joint Release on Transgender Rights


The following is a joint press release sent this week to all public schools by NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and SED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia in regard to transgender rights. The issuance was in response to recent federal action by the Trump Administration in this controversial area.


Despite President Trump’s Attack On Transgender Students At The Federal Level, NY Districts Have Independent Duties To Protect These Students From Discrimination And Harassment 

Schneiderman: The Law Remains The Law In New York State, And Schools Must Provide Transgender Students A Safe And Welcoming Place To Learn

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and New York State Education Department Commissioner MaryEllen Elia today vehemently objected to the decision yesterday by President Trump and the federal Departments of Education and Justice to rescind guidance that clarified federal legal protections for transgender students.  The Attorney General and Commissioner reminded school districts across New York State that – irrespective of the federal government’s decision – they have independent duties under state and local law to protect transgender students from discrimination and harassment in their schools and at all school functions.

“The Trump Administration’s decision to rescind this guidance sends a dangerous and divisive message and threatens some of our most vulnerable young people,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “But in New York State, the law remains the law -- and school districts have independent duties to protect transgender students from discrimination and harassment when they go to school.  My office will use all the existing tools of federal, state, and local law to ensure that transgender kids are safe in their schools and are provided equal access to all programming and facilities consistent with their gender identity.”

“Our most sacred duty as parents, educators and leaders of state agencies is to protect all of the children in our care,” said State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. “Transgender youth are valued members of our schools and communities across New York State, yet statistics show that more than half of them will attempt suicide at least once by their 20th birthday.  So we must do everything in our power to create learning environments that are safe and welcoming for all. The guidance we have developed with Attorney General Schneiderman and our partners underscores the value we place on respecting all students and indeed all people.”

The Attorney General and Commissioner remind school districts that the federal government’s decision to rescind federal guidance does not eliminate the significant body of law including cases involving provisions of the federal Title IX - that holds that denying a student access to facilities or programming consistent with that student’s gender identity could amount to sex discrimination under federal law. 

Separate and apart from existing federal law, New York State’s Dignity for All Students Act expressly requires all school districts in New York to prohibit discrimination and harassment, on school property or at a school function, on the basis of a student’s gender identity or expression.  Based on this, SED issued guidance to all New York State school districts in July 2015, entitled “Guidance to School Districts for Creating a Safe and Supportive School Environment For Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students,” that covers much of the same subject matter of the federal guidance that was rescinded yesterday. 

(That guidance can be found by clicking HERE.) 

SED’s guidance encourages districts to take proactive steps to ensure that transgender and gender nonconforming students experience a safe and welcoming learning environment free of discrimination and harassment.  With respect to transgender students, the guidance specifically covers how school districts should address the use of names and pronouns; sex-segregated programming and school facilities; and student privacy and confidentiality.   

Regarding the bullying and harassment of transgender students – and other students protected by DASA – the Attorney General and Commissioner also released guidance to school districts in August 2016 on how to ensure compliance with DASA’s requirements.  That guidance set forth detailed procedures for the timing and execution of school district investigations into complaints of bullying and harassment on school property or at school functions. 

(That guidance can be found by clicking HERE.)

Following the rescinding of federal guidance by the Trump Administration, the Attorney General and Commissioner strongly encourage districts and their school attorneys to review SED’s guidance on protecting transgender students, as well as our agencies’ joint guidance on how to ensure districts comply with their duties under DASA as to all students.  

The Attorney General's Office is committed to ensuring access to equal educational opportunity. To file a complaint, contact the Civil Rights Bureau at (212) 416-8250, civil.rights@ag.ny.gov or visit www.ag.ny.gov.

Here is a legal opinion from our counsel at the Ferrara Firm in regard to this issue.

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