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Niskayuna Schools > Board of Education > Board Meeting Summary

Board of Education Meeting Summary

January 26, 2016


Public Hearing on Alternative Veterans Exemption

The Board of Education held a public hearing on the Alternative Veterans Exemption, a state program that allows local governments to exempt a portion of the property values of eligible veterans from school tax bills. Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. outlined the exemption, followed by public input. The exemption was authorized in the mid-1980s for municipal government (counties, towns, etc.) and in 2013 the state extended school districts the option to offer it. If they do so, districts choose from a range of exemption levels. The state does not provide revenue to offset the exemption, which means taxes would be redistributed if it is approved. For example, at the minimum level, the owner of a house assessed at $250,000 in Niskayuna would have paid an estimated $11 more in taxes in the current year if the exemption had been in place. An eligible veteran who served during wartime and owns a $250,000 house in Niskayuna would have saved an estimated $101 this year if exemption had been in place. The value of the exemption is greater for combat veterans and disabled veterans. The Board has not made a decision on the exemption. It will be on the Feb. 8 agenda for discussion. View the Alternative Veterans Exemption presentation from the public hearing [PDF].


Board Member Reports

Board members have attended recent PTO meetings, the Common Core Math Nights, winter athletic contests, the Birchwood Bingo Night, and the monthly Student Forum meeting. Board members also reported the following:

  • Congratulations to the 20 middle school students who recently competed in Geography Bees at Iroquois and Van Antwerp, including winners Shivani Singh, of VA, and Nicholas Riendeau, of Iroquois. Winners take a qualifying exam for the statewide competition in March.
  • Best of luck to Van Antwerp 6th grade student Katie Sumner, Iroquois 7th grade student Kaitlyn Ziwei Yan and Van Antwerp 8th grade student Allison Malatesta in the Scripps Regional Spelling Bee at Proctors next Tuesday.
  • Iroquois and Van Antwerp held their annual Readathons on the past two Friday nights, bringing out more than 300 middle school students in all for an evening of reading that benefitted some great causes. Across the two buildings, students raised more than $6,000 that will benefit the Double H Ranch and other nonprofits.
  •  Board members said the teachers and instructional leaders involved in the recent Common Core Math Nights did a great job.
  • The Van Antwerp Study Circles Group participated in the Annual STOP (Students Together Opposing Prejudice) conference at Siena College on Jan. 15.
  • High School students, led by the SCOPE Club, are busily preparing for Charity Week. From Feb. 8-12, high school students will spend homeroom making thousands of handmade items to be donated to a different area charity each day.
  • Congratulations to Niskayuna High School senior Patrick Chi for being named one of only 300 semifinalists in the nationwide Intel Science Talent Search earlier this month. This is the most prestigious pre-college science competition in the country.
  • Board President Patricia Lanotte recently participated in an Office of the State Comptroller webinar about its fiscal stress monitoring system. She hopes that this ultimately leads proactive tools to help school districts maintain fiscal health.


Student Report

Student representative Noah Rohde has been in contact with middle school student council advisors about talking with students about governance and civic engagement. He is working with Director of Art Kelly Jones on the project to visually display the district's mission statement in the Board Room, and he recently met with U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko to talk about strengthening the connection between the high school and the congressman's office.


Superintendent's Report


Executive Budget Proposal - Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. said that the school aid included in the Governor's recent Executive Budget Proposal is only a starting point in the state budget negotiations, but it fell far short of the funding that Niskayuna and districts around the state need for 2016-17. The Governor proposes to restore only about a third of the district's $1.6 million Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) next year, and the district would receive no Foundation Aid increase. Further, local revenue for schools will be extremely limited by the tax cap this year because a change in CPI that is close to zero percent (0.12 percent) will factor in the required tax cap calculation. Given the tax cap and the state aid cuts of recent years, Dr. Tangorra said a significant increase in state aid beyond the Governor's proposal is needed as the district looks to maintain offerings, make restorations, and improve programs. He will be sending a letter to state Senator Hugh Farley and Assemblyman Phil Steck to inform them about how the Governor's proposal impacts the district.


Communications Guide - Dr. Tangorra said that when parents and community members have a question or concern, it is important that they contact the person in the organization who can most effectively help them. The district has created a document to serve as a guide in this respect. It indicates who should be contacted based on the nature of an issue, and outlines subsequent levels of contact if necessary. Dr. Tangorra said this will help ensure questions and concerns are addressed in an orderly, thoughtful and efficient manner. View the Communications Guide


Common Core Math Nights

Assistant Superintendent Lauren Gemmill reported on the recent K-2 and 3-5 Common Core parent math nights. They were designed to show parents the math concepts being taught in elementary classrooms and strategies to help students at home. A total of about 170 parents attended the two sessions. Ms. Gemmill complimented Math Director Bill Wales, Birchwood Principal Debra Berdt, Hillside Principal Shireen Fasciglione, and elementary teachers for their work in developing and presenting the information. She said the district is clearly making the instructional shifts required by the Common Core and students are benefiting. The next step is to continue to identify ways to support parents with understanding and familiarity around the instructional strategies being used in the classroom, particularly at grades 3-5. The district has established an Elementary Math Resources web page for parents, which also features a video of Niskayuna teaches and instructional leaders talking about how students are learning math at a deeper level in today's classrooms.


Board Policies

The Board is reviewing policies at each meeting as it transitions to a new policy manual. The following policies were approved at the meeting:

  • Policy 7250 Student Privacy, Parental Access to Information and Administration of Certain Physical Examinations to Minors
  • Policy 7580 Safe Public School Choice Option to Students Who are Victims of a Violent Criminal Offense

All policies are on the district website here.


Additional Notes

  • The Consent Agenda was approved as presented.
  • The next meeting is Monday, Feb. 8 at Glencliff Elementary School. A Students First presentation will take place at 6 p.m., followed by the meeting in the cafeteria.