School Board Meeting Summary for June 13, 2017

Retiree Recognition

The meeting started with the Board of Education recognition ceremony to honor the 20 staff members who are retiring this year. “In the years that lie ahead, recall us fondly,” said Board President Rosemarie Perez Jaquith. “Embrace the exciting challenges that await you and make the most of each day. Embrace the knowledge that you have left a lasting legacy. You have shaped and molded the minds and hearts of so many.”

Congratulations to: Guy Connelly, Renata Miros, Dennis Deland, David Ormsbee, Suzanne Dorries, Randall Roeser, Cathy Frank, Michelle Ryan-Rivers, Stephanie Frey, Michelle Sausa-Gatta, Barbara Gorman, Diana Seda, Judith Henery, Mark Treanor, Varda LeMonds, Judith Vaccaro, Lauren Matarazzo, Peter Warren, Margaret Mazzanoble and Abigail Weber.

As part of the recognition, newly tenured faculty members were also honored. This “passing of the torch” looks to be a new district tradition.

Student Representative Report

A group of students, high school administrators and Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra recently participated in a Skype meeting with an organization called “7 Cups of Tea,” which provides peer-to-peer conversations to help students deal with stress and anxiety. The organization works predominantly with colleges. Student representatives said it was interesting to learn about the program. A great deal of conversation would be needed before moving forward with it at the high school.

The student forum meetings gained some momentum this year and students are hoping for even more participation next year.

Board members recognized senior Student Representative Cassidy Beauchemin for her contributions in the role over the last two years.

Science & Engineering Program Review

The K-12 Science & Engineering Technology Program Review resulted in an analysis of the current program and the identification of priority areas for future work. These areas included: K-12 curriculum alignment; facilities that enable more hands-on science and engineering technology learning; instructional technology and teacher training; and exploring the possibility of accelerated opportunities in science and engineering technology at the middle school level.

These recommendations and an overview of the Program Review Process was provided by K-12 Director of Science & Engineering Technology Director Jackie Carrese and review team co-facilitators Mary Hanchar of Iroquois and Jessica Jefts of Rosendale. It was a comprehensive, evidence-based approach. They also said it was a rewarding and unique opportunity to work with colleagues across all levels to review the program and discuss future priorities.

Science & Engineering Technology was the first department to undergo a program review through the process established last year by the District Curriculum and Assessment Council (DCAC). All departments will go through a program review based on a cycle developed by DCAC. At the Board meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Lauren Gemmill highlighted how program reviews are a critical part of a systematic approach to planning the future of school programs. The work will inform curriculum development, technology and facilities priorities and the professional development plan. To learn more, view this infographic that Ms. Gemmill shared at the meeting.

Budget Vote Exit Survey

Matt Leon shared some highlights of the exit survey conducted as part of the May 16 budget vote. There were 528 survey responses, which represents 24 percent of voters. The results indicate strong support for the schools, increasing confidence in the leadership of the district over the past few years, and increased awareness of the strategic plan.

School Calendar

Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr., noted that the State Education Department has released some guidance this spring pertaining to school calendar requirements, including half days. He said that it may be necessary to adjust next year’s calendar to avoid half days at the end of the year (June 2018). Additionally, he said he believes it is important for the district to maintain traditions like the 9th grade orientation day in September and the kindergarten visitation days at the start of the year, but this may require tradeoffs at other points in the calendar. These could include holding school the day before Thanksgiving or abbreviating another break. No decisions have been made to adjust next year”s calendar at this time.

Closed Courses and Wait List for 2017-18

The list of high school courses that have a wait list at this point in the high school scheduling process was shared. There was a general discussion about the scheduling process and the role that self-selection plays in fulfilling student course requests. This discussion included the idea of seeking feedback from faculty about self-selection.

Enrollment/Demographic Study and Pupil Capacity Study

The Board approved a proposal from SES Study Team to conduct an enrollment/demographic study and pupil capacity study. This work will inform future capital improvements, including those that would accommodate more interdisciplinary and project-based learning, which has been discussed by the Instructional Program Advisory Council (IPAC) throughout this year. The enrollment and capacity study will begin this summer and is expected to be finished by the spring.

Athletic Code of Conduct Report

High School Principal John Rickert and Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics Larry Gillooley presented the report on Athletic Code of Conduct infractions for the spring season and the full year. There were a total of four reports of violations this spring, three of which resulted in disciplinary action. For the year, a total of 18 suspected violations led to 12 penalties. Mr. Rickert and Mr. Gillooley said they believe the focus on the Athletic Code of Conduct of this past year did lead to greater awareness among student-athletes. They said the coaches have been helpful in sending this message to students.

Student Representative Jonathan Romano

The Board appointed current sophomore Jonathan Romano to a two-year term as the student representative to the Board for the Class of 2019. He will officially begin with the Board at its organizational meeting on July 14. A total of eight students interviewed for the position. Congratulations, Jonathan!

Board Policy Review

The Board adopted Policy 7680 Independent Educational Evaluations and Policy 8450 Home Tutoring. A first read was conducted for Policy 5660 School Food Service Program and a series of policies related to the finances of extracurricular activities (Policy 1336 Duties of the Extraclassroom Activity Fund Central Treasurer and Faculty Auditor; Policy 5520 Extraclassroom Activity Fund; and Policy 7410 Extracurricular Activities.)

During the meeting, Board member Pat Lanotte noted that there have been good conversations at two recent meetings of the Audit Committee about policies and procedures needed to ensure sales tax compliance on the part of extracurricular activities.

Additional Meeting Notes

  • The consent agenda was approved.
  • The Board approved a memorandum of agreement to place the special education chairperson positions in the Niskayuna Directors Association, which Dr. Tangorra said was the most appropriate unit for the positions.
  • Based on current projections, approximately $1.5 million will be available at the end of this fiscal year (June 30) to transfer to the Capital Reserve Fund approved by voters in 2016. This fund is designed to offset the tax impact of future facilities improvements.
  • Bid awards that were approved included contracts for the geothermal system work that is taking place at the high school this summer.
  • The Board approved the Discovery Education Science Techbook for use as an instructional resource for grades K-5 science.