Note: Many of the presentations referenced below are posted with the March 22 meeting on Niskayuna BoardDocs. To access them, visit http://www.boarddocs.com/ny/nisk/Board.nsf/Public. On the left side of the page, click on the meetings tab, select March 22, click "View Agenda," and then navigate to a specific agenda item.
Bob Winchester talked to the Board on behalf of the Niskayuna Community Action Program (N-CAP) about the community mental health needs assessment that N-CAP is conducting. It is using a "key informant" approach to the process, which is designed to have community members share insights into concerns, problems and resources available to address mental health needs. N-CAP is seeking assistance from anyone interested in participating. More information about the assessment and how to help can be obtained by contacting Kay Hebert at the N-CAP office (firstname.lastname@example.org or 374-0744.)
The Board reviewed "Eight Characteristics of Effective School Boards," a resource from the Center for Public Education. Members indicated that it would be one useful benchmarking tool as the Board moves toward a self-evaluation and continues its strategic planning process. "Eight Characteristics of Effective School Boards" is available on Niskayuna BoardDocs.
Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Lauren Gemmill provided an update on the multi-year Curriculum Development Project that was initiated this year. She said she is very excited about the work that is being done, which is the beginning of an articulated, vertically-aligned Niskayuna curriculum. The approximately 100 teachers who were involved this year were surveyed about the work, and their feedback was incorporated into the plan for 2016-17. Board members commended the teachers for the hard work and dedication they are bringing to this project, especially their commitment to furthering it over the summer to limit the amount of time they are out of the classroom. The Curriculum Development presentation is posted on Niskayuna Niskayuna BoardDocs.
Maureen McGuinness and Dave Orcutt from the Education Enrichment Fund (EEF) Advisory Committee told the Board that the EEF is planning to announce the first-ever grants from the fund this year to support proposals submitted by Niskayuna teachers. Since it was formed in October, the committee has been busy. It established by-laws and this year's grant process, and shared information at faculty meetings at each school. The committee plans to announce the grant funding for this year - six proposals totaling $4,058 - at a celebration event to draw attention to the EEF and to the recipients, setting the stage for even bigger things down the road.
Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. presented a draft 2016-17 budget that continues all current programs and services and includes some potential budget additions to meet targeted needs. The budget totals $80.4 million, which represents about a 3.02 percent spending increase over the current year. It contains a tax levy increase of 0.41 percent, which is the district's limit under the state's tax cap. A series of targeted budget restorations/additions are contingent upon the elimination of the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) in the final state budget. The state budget deadline is April 1, which means the district expects to have more complete information about state revenue in time for the April 5 Board meeting. The Board could adopt a proposed budget that evening. The budget presentation and the budget book are posted on Niskayuna BoardDocs; you can also find more information at http://www.niskyschools.org/news/2015-16/032216-draft-budget.cfm.
Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics Larry Gillooley presented an overview of the district's interscholastic athletics program. There are approximately 1,360 student participants in grades 7-12, including about 61 percent of high school students. Mr. Gillooley noted that in some sports there has been a shift away from freshman teams toward a modified 9 approach, open to students in grades 7-9. During the last year, all but four teams have been named New York State Scholar-Athlete teams, and Niskayuna is a strong contender for the Suburban Council Sportsmanship Award this year. Mr. Gillooley said that a continuing challenge is coach recruitment, retention and longevity, given the demanding nature of this role. Other challenges include social media, the trend of students specializing in sports, the new league structure, and ensuring that the facilities are able to serve present needs and support program expansion as it occurs.
The Board is reviewing policies at each meeting as it transitions to a new policy manual. The following policies were approved at the meeting:
All policies are on the district website here.