School Board Meeting Summary for April 11, 2017

Craig Students First — The Power of Positivity

The Students First presentation featured Craig third grade students and teachers sharing how they are using the power of positive psychology in everyday class activities and fourth grade students sharing their biography projects, which also focused on character traits such as perseverance, creativity and hard work.

AP English 11 Research Presentation – Student Anxiety

AP English 11 students Greg George, MJ Lee, and Johanne Friedman presented their academic research project: “The Prevalence of Academic Stress in the Niskayuna Central School District and Possible Methods of Addressing It.”” Their presentation identified data about stress levels based on a student survey, citied factors that contribute to student stress and outlined possible solutions – including a cultural shift that would make addressing mental health issues more prominent in our schools.

N-CAP Community Mental Health Needs Assessment

Niskayuna Community Action Program (N-CAP) Board Member Bob Winchester discussed the Community Mental Health Needs Assessment that was released in February. The assessment was conducted in response to a series of adult suicides in the community. Mr. Winchester emphasized the impact that adult mental health has on the entire community. He called for a community-wide response that overcomes denial and brings more discussion and resources related to positive mental health to the forefront.

Capital Project Update

As the district enters a period of capital improvements and continued planning, Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. and Bill McMordie, of Saratoga Construction Management, shared with the Board a series of policies and procedures that focus on communication, safety, planning and decision-making. The Van Antwerp roof replacement and bus garage roof truss repairs are on track for this summer as planned.

April 26 Student Focus Group Discussion

On the evening of April 26, a special meeting of the High School Student Forum will be devoted to a focus group discussion with students about school environment and culture and the Niskayuna educational experience. This is being organized by the Instructional Program Advisory Council (IPAC) and the Environment and Culture Advisory Committee (ECAC), in conjunction with students, to inform the ongoing work of the two advisory groups.

Smart Schools Plan – Security Camera System

Edward Alston III provided information in response to public comment received on the first phase of the district”s Smart Schools Investment plan. In this initial phase, the district will be using the state Smart Schools funding to replace its security camera system. Mr. Alston outlined plans for ongoing service, the bandwidth and camera specifications, and the vendor selection process. The Board approved the submission of the Smart Schools plan to the state. The timeline calls for the camera system to be replaced this coming fall.

Proposed Budget Adopted

The Board adopted an $81.4 million school budget proposal for the 2017-18 school year. The budget continues all current student programs, supports many ongoing initiatives, and includes the overall addition of five teaching positions across the three levels, primarily to help manage class sizes. Total spending in the budget would increase by about $957,000, or 1.2 percent. The tax levy increase is 2.08 percent, which is the district’s limit based on the state tax cap calculation. The school budget vote is on Tuesday, May 16. There will also be a bus purchase proposition and two seats on the Board of Education on the ballot. Information will be shared with staff and community members at forums in the weeks leading up to the vote.

Dr. Tangorra said that although the revenue was not available to restore all of the positions that had been identified as priorities, he is pleased that the district is able to make some modest budget additions. In addition to ongoing work in the area of mental health, addressing student social and emotional needs will be a top priority as the 2018-19 budget is developed.

Board Policy Review

As part of its transition to a new policy manual, the Board approved Policy 7631 Appointment and Training of CSE Members and Policy 7632 Appointment and Training of CPSE Members. A first read of Draft Policy 7620 Students with Disabilities Participating in District Programs and Draft Policy 7670 Due Process Complaints was held.

Additional Meeting Highlights

  • Student representatives said that the “ambassador” program that is bringing high school and middle school students together to talk about issues such as bullying and diversity is expanding to both middle schools.
  • The Patriot Flight group that presented the veterans assembly at Niskayuna High School earlier this month formally recognized student John Drazba for winning its essay contest.
  • The Consent Agenda was approved as presented.
  • Board members commended the students and staff involved in the Unified athletics program, the NYSSMA events at Niskayuna High School and the AP English 11 research presentations.

Next Meeting: The Board meeting on April 25 will be held at 8 a.m. The purpose of this special meeting is to vote on the annual BOCES budget and BOCES board members and to conduct routine Board business.