School Board Meeting Summary for May 9, 2017

Budget Hearing

Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. provided an overview of the $81.4 million school budget proposed for 2017-18 that residents will vote on next Tuesday, May 16. The budget contains a spending increase of 1.19 percent and a tax levy increase of 2.08 percent, which is the district’s limit based on the state tax cap formula. The proposal includes the addition of about five teaching positions, primarily to help manage class size at the elementary and middle school levels. In addition to the budget, voters will decide on a bus purchase proposition and fill two seats on the Board of Education. Voting on May 16 will take place at Niskayuna High School from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Response to Intervention

Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Lauren Gemmill, Director of English Language Arts Jean Winkler and school psychologist Elizabeth Sabourin (Craig) provide an overview of the elementary Response to Intervention (RtI) plan that a committee of 30 faculty members from across the district has developed over the last several months. They defined RtI as “a district-wide system of organizing instruction and support resources to deliver high-quality instruction to meet the diverse needs of learners using a tiered approach.” They emphasized the systematic nature of the plan and its focus on intervening as early as possible, with the intensity based on a student’s needs. They highlighted the role that a universal screening tool and building-level Data Review Teams will play in RtI. Given the number of initiatives that teachers are working on, the plan will be phased-in at the elementary level over a four-year period, beginning with reading in kindergarten and first grade next year.

Deborah Marriott appointed director of student and staff support services

The Board approved the appointment of Deborah Marriott as the director of student and staff support services. Mark Treanor is retiring from the position at the end of this year and Deborah will begin in July. Dr. Tangorra highlighted Marriott’s current position as director of human resources with the City School District of Albany and her experience as an attorney with the State Education Department, along with the stakeholder involvement in the selection process. Welcome to Niskayuna, Deborah

Administrative Tenure: Lauren Gemmill

The Board approved Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Lauren Gemmill for tenure. Dr. Tangorra noted the significant work that Ms. Gemmill has done in partnership with the faculty over the past few years to advance teaching and learning in the district. Congratulations, Lauren!

Teacher & Teaching Assistant Tenure

The Board approved 19 teachers and eight teaching assistants for tenure. They are: teachers Amanda Adamo (Glencliff), Jodie Barber (Glencliff), Michelle Bonczkowski (Birchwood), Caitlin Burke (Birchwood), Nancy Czachor (High School); Christina DeLuca (High School), Brian Grastorf (High School), Carolyn Gregory (Van Antwerp), Amy Isenhart (Birchwood), Susan Kokernak (Elementary and Middle School), John Leclerc (High School), Kellyn Moore (Glencliff), Carla Pakosz (Birchwood), Richelle Pakosz (High School), Jacob Purington (Van Antwerp), Deborah Shephard (Birchwood), Erin Shoudy (Glencliff), Alexandra Tabakman (Rosendale), and Heather Workman (High School) and teaching assistants Amanda Best (Birchwood), Rosa Cannavo (Birchwood), Laurie Schlansker (Glencliff), Heather Kos (Hillside), Kimberly Watson (Rosendale), Brendan Halayko (Iroquois), Patrick Bernard (High School) and Alyssa Fecura (High School).

Congratulations to all!

Facilities Use Handbook & Procedures

Director of Business & Finance Carrie Nyc-Chevrier shared a draft handbook for the use of school buildings and grounds by outside groups. An internal audit report last year recommended improving procedures in this area. The district plans to move from a flat fee structure to a tiered structure in which the fee varies based on the nature of the group using district space. Many districts utilize this approach. There was a discussion about being sensitive to the impact fees will have on community organizations while also recognizing that the district needs to cover its costs for facilities use. Ms. Nyc-Chevrier will incorporate feedback she receives into an updated draft of the handbook to be shared at a future meeting.

National School Lunch Program

The Board voted to re-enter the National School Lunch Program for grades K-8. Being part of the program will allow the district to receive federal reimbursements for school lunches. This will help address the operating deficit within the school lunch program and reduce the transfer from the general fund budget that is currently needed to cover the losses.

Board Policy Review

The Board is reviewing policies at each meeting as part of its transition to a new policy manual. Policy 7620 Students with Disabilities Participating in District Programs and 7670 Due Process Complaints and Board Appointment of Impartial Hearing Officers were adopted. First reads were conducted for Policy 7212 Response to Intervention Process and Policy 7222 Diploma or Credential Options for Students with Disabilities.

The Board also had a general discussion about current Policy 7500 Naming Facilities. This was in the context of the Education Enrichment Fund’s efforts to raise money to advance district programs and student opportunities. The policy gives the Board sole discretion in this area, which members agreed provides appropriate flexibility.

Additional Meeting Highlights

Student representatives said that the selection process is underway for Board representation from the current sophomore class.

  • The Board tabled a motion to extend the rental agreement with the Schenectady Jewish Community Center for after school childcare. This will allow time to research a procedural question about the application of a fair market value for the space.
  • The Board approved contacts for the capital project work that is scheduled for this summer – the Van Antwerp roof replacement and roof structure repairs at the bus garage.
  • Board members will be suggesting topics for Board professional development at a summer retreat. They are also interested in identifying the kinds of data that would help inform the Board’s work and evaluation of its effectiveness.
  • The Consent Agenda was approved.
  • There was a discussion about the consideration that district PTO groups are giving to discontinuing their PTO designation and affiliating with the PTA.
  • Board members congratulated the Drama Club for outstanding performances of “The Man Who Came to Dinner” and all involved with “The Phantom of the Opera” for the nine nominations in the region’s high school musical awards.