School Board Meeting Summary for March 20, 2017

NYSteam Bus

Iroquois teacher Frank Adamo, Library Media Specialist Steve Wolfort and seven students presented their vision to retrofit a Niskayuna school bus with a variety of STEAM activities. (STEAM is Science, Technology, Engineering, Art + Design, and Math.) Their goal is to create a mobile lab that can travel to Niskayuna’s elementary schools and other locations to get students excited about STEAM. They expect to learn in early May if they will receive a $74,000 grant from Honda to further the initiative, and will also be seeking additional partners and support.

Athletic Code of Conduct

Director of Athletics Larry Gillooley provided an overview of changes he is proposing for the Athletic Code of Conduct for 2017-18. They include language designed to: encourage parents to remain aware of their student-athlete’s academic progress; raise awareness about eligibility and transfer rules; and foster effective communication between students, coaches and parents.

2017-18 School Budget

Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. outlined an initial budget for the 2017-18 school year. This plan continues all current student programs and service and includes the potential for modest staffing increases. These increases would manage class size at the elementary and middle school level, meet high school course requests and further the elementary PLC initiative. Preliminary expenditures total $81.9 million, an increase of 1.83 percent from this year. However, current revenues are about $650,000 below this amount, based on the state aid in the Governor’s budget proposal and a tax levy increase at the district’s limit of 2.08 percent.

In advance of the Board”s March 28 meeting, Dr. Tangorra said that the Core Leadership Team will work to address the gap – most likely by applying an estimate for funding in the final state budget and identifying areas where expenditures can be adjusted. He expects current programs and ongoing strategic initiatives to continue. The budget development timeline calls for the Board to adopt a proposed budget on April 11. The budget vote is Tuesday, May 16.

Superintendent’s Report

High School Start Time – The Instructional Program Advisory Council (IPAC) will take up the issue of a later high school start time in the context of its broader conversations about academic program design.

Pupil Capacity Study – Dr. Tangorra has shared information with the Board about having Paul Seversky conduct a pupil capacity study to help inform future capital project work. Dr. Seversky will attend a future meeting of both IPAC and the Board meeting to help shape his proposal for the study.

Strategic Plan – The Board held a strategic planning workshop on Saturday, February 4, to reflect on the work accomplished to date and identify any adjustments to the plan. Based on the conversation, Dr. Tangorra and facilitator Ron Frank (a community volunteer) drafted a set of tenets of the strategic plan. The purpose of the tenets is to ensure that district activities are aligned with the plan and to inform goals for 2017-18. These are the four tenets of the plan:

  • Drive the 21st century educational experience through professional development
  • Ensure fiduciary and fiscal responsibilities in the creation, optimization and execution of a balanced budget
  • Appropriately assess and make recommendations for the maintenance of buildings, improvements of HR processes, and advancements in technology
  • Sustain a transparent, open and communicative relationship amongst leadership, Board of Education, staff, students, parents and community

Superintendent’s Conference Day – Dr. Tangorra credited Assistant Superintendent Lauren Gemmill and the team that organized the outstanding “Leading and Learning” professional development day on March 17. He shared the video that highlights the day.

Director of Pupil Personnel Services John Moskov

The Board voted unanimously to appoint John Moskov as the district Director of Pupil Personnel Services, a role that encompasses leadership of the Special Education Department and student service areas. Dr. Tangorra said that the purpose of this Cabinet-level position is to provide a systems approach to advancing the Special Education Department and vision and leadership for student services. John’s experience and leadership abilities made him the right person for the job.

Director of Facilities Anthony Lento

The Board voted unanimously to appoint Anthony Lento as the district’s Director of Facilities, a position that has been vacant for many months. Anthony owns an electrical contracting business and has experience with a variety of building trades and project management.

Superintendent’s Contract

The Board voted unanimously to extend Dr. Tangorra’s contract through June 2020.

Tenure Candidate Information

Portfolios for the 22 candidates who are eligible for tenure are available for Board members to review. The Board is expected to act on tenure recommendations on May 9.

Winter Athletic Season Code of Conduct Update

Niskayuna High School Principal John Rickert reported that there were no allegations of violations during the winter season. It was observed that students are more aware of the Athletic Code of Conduct this year.

Textbook Information – March

K-12 Director of English Language Arts Jean Winkler provided the Board with some background information about the selection of the graphic novel March to be used by 8th grade students in the Civil Rights unit. The book was selected by Social Studies and English teachers, who feel that the unique format and narrative will make important themes and messages accessible to students. There is some strong language and violence that teachers will address with students in a sensitive manner.

Board Policy

As part of the transition to the new policy manual, the Board adopted Policy 7611 – Children with Disabilities, Policy 7615 – Least Restrictive Environments and Policy 8271 – Internet Safety and Content Filtering and repealed the previous policies in these areas. Policy 7315 – Student Use of Computerized Information Resources – Acceptable Use was on the agenda for a first read.

Additional Meeting Notes

  • During the Student Representative report, it was noted that high school students recently had a very positive visit with Iroquois students to discuss issues such as diversity and bullying as part of the Environment and Culture initiative.
  • The State Education Department has reviewed the district’s submissions for the capital project work scheduled for this summer and identified only minor items. The Board voted to begin the process of putting the work out to bid.
  • The Consent Agenda was approved as presented.
  • During Board forum, there was a discussion about the fact that the stringent 501(c)3 reporting requirements are continuing challenge for PTO Council. Leaders continue to explore options in this area.