Prior to the meeting, the Board held a reception to honor the nine high school seniors who are National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists for 2016. Congratulations to: Alice Hollocher, Noah Wilkerson, Noah Daviero, Michael Makutonin, Liam McGrinder, Andrey Akhemtov, Zachary LeBlanc, Matthew Ruona and Emil Friedman. The Middle School Jazz Band did a wonderful job providing entertainment for the reception.
Board members attended the November PTO Council meeting and the parent meeting on foreign travel, and have been working on the strategic planning process. Board member reports also included the following:
Student representative Veronica Liu asked about the afterschool security monitor position planned for the high school in light of another incident of a car being keyed in the high school parking lot recently. This position was recently re-posted in the hopes of having it filled soon. Security camera improvements are also planned.
National Merit Scholar Contest - In addition to the
National Merit Scholar Semifinalists, Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr.
expressed his congratulations to the 17 Niskayuna High School students who
achieved commended status this year by scoring in the top 3 percent of students
Transportation shared services grant - The district has been awarded $600,000 in state funding to help expand shared transportation services through the latest round of competitive state economic development grants. The award will provide architectural and engineering services necessary to plan improvements at the 1301 Hillside Avenue transportation facility. Dr. Tangorra said he has been told that the public-private nature of the district's transportation made its application for funding very competitive.
Monthly enrollment - Month-to-month enrollment from early November to early December stayed essentially flat. The monthly enrollment reports were implemented as part of the flex zone plan. Also in line with the flex zone plan, the district is transitioning to a centralized kindergarten registration process this year. In early January, information will go out to families of next year's kindergarten students in early January.
Strategic planning - The Board has been engaged in the strategic planning process this fall. Focus areas are curriculum and programs, student culture and environment, and partnerships. The conversation at the meeting focused on student engagement. Strategic planning will continue as part of upcoming Board meetings.
February 9 Board meeting date change - The Board meeting scheduled for Tuesday, February 9, will be moved to Monday, February 8. It will be held at Glencliff Elementary School as planned.
Legislative update - Dr. Tangorra co-chairs the Capital Regioin BOCES Superintendent's Legislative Committee. The committee has identified four priority areas for legislative advocacy this year: Adequate school funding; addressing problems with the tax cap; rebuilding a quality teacher and principal evaluation system; and increasing the capacity of the State Education Department to support schools. He noted that allowable growth under the tax cap for the coming year is currently projected at just two-hundredths of one percent due to the use of the Consumer Price Index in the formula. If state leaders don't make sensible changes to the formula or provide additional state aid, this will create budget challenges for schools.
Capital project planning - The Building Condition Survey report is expected in early 2016, Dr. Tangorra said. This assessment of district needs, along with academic program planning, will inform a capital project. The district is working backwards from a tentative timeline of beginning the work in 30 months. After the Building Condition Survey, the district will undertake a collaborative planning process.
Student travel - An informational meeting with parents of students planning to go on the upcoming trips to Italy and France will be held on January 5. Based on the information gathered to date and feedback from families, all trips will take place as scheduled.
Transgender students - At the last Leadership Team meeting, school attorney Kathy Ahearn presented the latest guidance, regulations, and case law on the issue of transgender students. Dr. Tangorra stressed the importance of ensuring that all students feel safe and respected at school and this includes respecting students' gender identity and the way they perceive themselves.
Social media - At the November Leadership Team meeting, Kathy Ahearn presented information about the appropriate use of social media by students, staff, and classes and the implications and issues this raises for schools. This fit nicely with the great presentation on the topic by Iroquois teachers at a recent PTO meeting.
Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Lauren Gemmill provided an overview of an integrated process the district will use to ensure that it is continually updating its academic programs in a coordinated manner. Two new committees form the centerpiece of this effort: The Instructional Program Advisory Council, or IPAC, which will be charged with developing a Profile of the Niskayuna Graduate, and the District Curriculum and Accessory Council, or DCAC, which will be charged with guiding instructional decisions through working with new and existing committees and program review teams. Ms. Gemmill shared an infographic document that outlined how the various components will ultimately inform instructional priorities and program development. Ms. Gemmill said this will be a collaborative effort. The impetus for creating the graphic and outlining the overall process was to be sure that as teachers and instructional leaders are asked to serve on various committees they see how the work fits into the larger picture. The graphic can be viewed right here [PDF]. It also includes a timeline. IPAC and DCAC will be established and begin meeting in early 2016.
The district is holding a series of program presentations leading up to the
development of the 2016-17 budget. The purpose of the presentations is to share
information, answer questions, and highlight potential priorities well ahead of
budget decision-making. The middle school program and operations & maintenance
were featured at the December 15 Board meeting.
Middle School Program Presentation
Iroquois Principal Vicki Wyld and Van Antwerp Principal Luke Rakoczy provided an overview of the middle school program, including academic offerings, the structure and schedule, staffing levels and support services. The program is designed to meet New York state requirements and foster the academic and personal growth of all 991 students in grades 6-8. This is accomplished within a very packed middle school day, the principals said. They are excited about the ongoing curriculum work that ELA Director Jean Winkler and Mathematics Director Bill Wales are leading with teachers. Mr. Rakoczy and Ms. Wyld said that the part-time middle school dean positions established this year have been helpful. Yet, administrative support in the form of assistant principals would be the ideal way to address the number of issues and concerns at the middle school level and more fully meet the needs of parents and students. Other future priorities include increased Academic Intervention Services staffing, the restoration of a full-time library media specialist at each school and clerical support. View the presentation [PDF]
Operations & Maintenance Program Presentation
Randy Loring provided an overview of the Operations and Maintenance Department, which is responsible for ongoing care and maintenance of the district's eight schools, the transportation facility on Hillside Avenue and all roadways, parking surfaces, grounds and playing fields. Mr. Loring presented information about a variety of infrastructure, facility, and safety improvements that have taken place across the district since July. The department's plans for the second half of the year include working on a security analysis of all buildings and continuing to improve the geothermal system at the high school. Mr. Loring complemented the work of O&M staff to keep the buildings clean, safe, and well-maintained. Beyond the immediate need for a modest increase in custodial support at Iroquois, he said that he wants to take the year ahead to evaluate staffing levels in relation to the workload and projects. Preventative maintenance is a priority for the department. A list of projects completed since July and planned for the second half of the year can be found in the presentation, which is available right here [PDF].
The Board reviewed a preliminary fund balance projection for the end of the year that shows expenditures and revenues are within budget, which should help future fiscal planning. The Board approved the November 13 Audit Committee meeting and the internal audit report. Board President Pat Lanotte congratulated Director of Business and Finance Carrie Nyc-Chevrier and her staff on great work.