Change of Role

Dear Visitors,

Thank you for your support and interest over the years in the Newburghedinfo website.

As you likely know, I'll be in a new role starting this evening--member of the Board of Education. Regular updates to this site are going to be discontinued.

I must say that I've greatly enjoyed managing the site for the past six years. I'm also grateful to those who have participated through e-mail and comments. I'd like to thank everyone that shared a viewpoint--even the comments that didn't get posted.

I do hope that there are people out there who will consider starting their own blog, or putting videos up on YouTube. These are not difficult or expensive things to do. The most significant investment is time. If you have any questions about how to go about it, do send me an email to newburghedinfo@gmail.com. There is a need for sites such as this, there is an eager audience, and it is definitely a learning experience.
--
R. Andrew Johnston

June BOE meeting post-exec

After an executive session that ran past midnight the Newburgh School District BOE passed three resolutions:

  • HR Resolution B, Professional change of location. (This moves Costanzo from Balmville to "district"; Crosson from Gardnertown to Balmville; and Torres from Vails Gate to Gardnertown.)
  • HR Resolution Q, a settlement agreement.
  • HR Resolution U, to grant Ebony Greene a leave of absence and appoint her as the acting principal of Vails Gate School.

June 2013 Workshop and Retiree videos up

Videos of the June 18 Retiree Recognition and BOE Workshop Meeting are up on YouTube.

Note that there is a regular Newburgh School District Board of Education meeting on Monday, June 24 at 7PM at Newburgh Free Academy Main Campus.

BOE Regular meeting May 2013

There was a regular monthly Newburgh School District BOE meeting on Tuesday May 28, 2013. The meeting was at Newburgh Free Library auditorium. There was an audience of around 90 at the beginning. Video of the meeting is available on YouTube.

The bullet points...

  • There was recognition of spelling bee winners.
  • Director of Secondary Interdisciplinary Curriculum and Assessment Ten Dyke introduced assemblyman Skartados, who announced the winners of a Dr. Martin Luther King essay contest.
  • Director of Athletics Jack Major announced scholar athletes.
  • There were some questions around extending a contract with Armlin Damon: would another firm be doing close-out reports for some projects and who would be the owner representative for work after December 2014.
  • At the request of Board member Prokosch a couple of conference requests were tabled for discussion in executive session.
  • H.R. Resolution M was updated. Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Leimer said "the revision is in item #4. We had another retirement come in over the weekend, therefore saving a teacher from being laid off". Resolutions M and N eliminating positions both passed.
  • H.R. Resolution O, creating several positions, was updated. According to Leimer, counsel advised that "...we can't use the title Coordinator, but to use the title Supervisor instead, because the title Coordinator is not listed under the Civil Service exempt titles as it applies to pedagogical and educational administrative titles." So the positions called Coordinator were changed to Supervisor. Job descriptions were available to the Board, but were not made available to the public before the meeting. When invited to explain these changes Assistant Superintendent of School Improvement Forgit explained that these positions would provide entry level administrative positions for teachers that are seeking administrative roles but do not have the required experience for other roles; Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction Shanahan and Assistant Superintendent of Student Intervention and Support Services Rumley added points about leverage and compliance.
  • H.R. Resolutions Q, R, S, and T were added. Q appointed individuals to extended school year program positions. R appointed Marilyn Scott as a Substitute Assistant Principal on a per diem basis. S was an additional retirement. T was additional Civil Service changes of status.
  • During public comments, a teacher suggested that offering a retirement incentive might further reduce the need for layoffs.
  • The subject of the budget would not have received any mention at all if it were not for a brave parent who followed up on questions she had asked at a previous meeting about full day kindergarten. She asked "what the deficit is now that the budget's passed; when you plan on meeting with the teachers union again; and when the decision will be made as to what schools will be closed and what will happen with the kindergarten program." Board President Fucheck answered that the budget deficit is approximately $1.9 million and that the district hopes to be back at the negotiating table.
  • After nearly three hours of executive session the BOE approved the tabled conference requests. Fucheck also mentioned that the June regular BOE meeting is being changed to Monday June 24, due to the change in graduation date.

May 2013 agenda and items posted

The regular monthly Newburgh School District Board of Ed meeting is tonight at 7PM.

Among the posted agenda items are HR resolutions M, N, and O, which eliminate certain positions (mainly as a result of the budget process) and create certain others.

Although many of the reductions are covered by resignation or retirement, it looks like there are around 22.5 layoffs. The layoffs include: Director of Special Education, Director of Secondary Interdisciplinary Curriculum and Assessment, and Executive Director for Instructional Technology. The positions created include four Special Education Coordinators, five Coordinators with titles relating to C&I, and a Director of K-12 Literacy.

Preliminary Results

Board of Education Member
Prokosch 1447
McAfee 1247
Johnston 1023

All three resolutions approved.

Public Hearing on the Budget May 13, 2013

Video is up of the Public Hearing on the Budget for the Newburgh School District for 2013-2014. The PowerPoint slides used in the presentation are available from the NECSD Budget webpage.

Public comments and questions start at about 25 minutes into the hearing. The question of what happens if the teachers' contract is not ratified came up twice. It was addressed most directly the second time at around 41 minutes or so.

At one point School District Attorney May said: "It's up to the voters to decide whether or not to approve that budget. And after that, then the Board will decide what it has to do."

Assistant Superintendent of Finance Pacella said: "It wouldn't be my recommendation to close a school to try to recover $1.9 million, so again as stated by Counsel, they would go back to the drawing board to find out how we can balance the budget if we don't have that $1.9 million savings." Pacella went on to explain that in the event of two budget vote defeats, a contingent budget would be required, and a school closure would probably be necessary.

New Teachers Contract Did Not Pass

The Newburgh Teachers' Association website has a headline up: The Teacher MOA & TA MOA were not ratified. The details of the proposed MOAs are still available at this link.

Running for BOE

picture of R. Andrew Johnston Hello everyone. I'm running to be a Member of the Board of Education. To put it briefly, the Newburgh School District BOE needs to focus on what's important: student achievement, fiscal stability, and communication. As a BOE Member I will work to see that these topics are addressed more often, in a more timely manner, and more effectively.

As part of the application process with the NECSD the district requested biographical information. There appears to be no information about the candidates on the NECSD website. Here is some brief bio information about me. Also, here is a letter from me which the Sentinel published this week.

Thank you for your continued interest in the Newburgh School District. I strongly encourage all district residents to vote for the BOE candidate or candidates of your choice on May 21. You have the option of voting for 0, 1, 2 or 3.

--
R. Andrew Johnston

NECSD BOE Candidates May 2013

There are seven candidates for the Newburgh School District Board of Education on the ballot for the May 21, 2013 Budget Vote and Election. Here they are in the order they will be on the ballot:

John Eliadis HOH parent and active volunteer.
Eric Motley A parent in the district. Has run before.
R. Andrew Johnston That's me. Will post more on this.
Susan Prokosch Incumbent. Served since 2010.
Runston T. Lewis Incumbent. Served many years on BOE.
Judith A. McAfee Incumbent. On BOE since May 2007.
Nathan F. Vesley Served on BOE 2009-2012.

As I've done in past years, I'm happy to post candidate letters or links to candidate info websites.

I believe the Mid Hudson Times is working on an article for next week. They make the effort to get some information to the public about the candidates every year. It is excellent of them to do that.

NTA Contract Vote Today

Newburgh Teachers' Association members are voting today on the newly proposed contract. A trove of information about the contract is available at the NTA website. Eleven different contract related documents are linked at this page.

The proposed 2013-2014 NECSD Budget depends upon this new contract.

Noted on the NECSD Budget Page:

A Public Hearing on the Budget has been scheduled for Monday, May 13, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. in the Board of Education/Library Complex Auditorium, 124 Grand Street.

Special Budget Meeting April 23, 2013

At the Newburgh School District Special meeting this evening, Board President Fucheck and Superintendent Pizzo credited successful negotations with the Newburgh Teachers' Association with enabling a 2013-2014 budget which will not require any school closures and will include the current full day kindergarten program.

The Board agreed on school district and library budget proposals. No numbers were mentioned at the meeting, but those details should be available soon.

Video of the meeting is available on YouTube.

Appointment Resolutions on Agenda

Among the Agenda Items for presentation at the Newburgh School District workshop meeting that will follow the Special Budget Meeting tonight is Resolution 043013L in which the Superintendent of Schools recommends that Matteo Doddo be appointed to the position of Executive High School Principal at NFA effective July 1. Also on the agenda, Resolution 043013M would appoint Charles R. Thomas to be Director of Newburgh Free Library.

Special meeting April 22, 2013

There was a special meeting of the Newburgh School District Board of Education on Monday April 22 at 6PM at the Newburgh Free Academy main campus auditorium. The meeting was almost entirely public speakers commenting three minutes each on the 2013-2014 budget.

In response to the first speaker who challenged the Board about whether they were going to have any public discussion about the difficult choices to be made, Board President Fucheck said "due to ongoing contract negotiations we will not be taking final consensus and having final discussion on the last three remaining items from the agenda from last week. We cannot jeopardize our negotiations that are ongoing..." The remaining items are reducing Kindergarten to half-day, or closing a school: Balmville, Horizons, or Vails Gate.

There is coverage of the meeting at the THRecord: Newburghers speak with one voice on school budget and at YNN: Newburgh's school budget vote set for Tuesday.

Video of the meeting is available on YouTube.

The special meeting today, Tuesday April 23 has been changed to 6PM to allow for an hour of BOE discussion and a consensus on remaining necessary reductions.

Budget Meeting Three April 18, 2013

Video of the April 18 Newburgh School District Budget Workshop is available on YouTube.

Here's the bullet point version...

  • The BOE met in Executive Session starting at 5PM. The public Budget Workshop began at 6PM.
  • BOE President Fucheck addressed a several budget items. She said that eliminating the Executive Principal position would not result in savings but would increase costs. Fucheck compared administrative staffing levels to other districts; talked about furniture purchasing; neighborhood schools and transportation; conference budget items; etc.
  • Superintendent Pizzo made comments about not wanting to close any school.
  • Assistant Superintendent of Finance Pacella gave a summary. He said that at one point the district had anticipated a restoration of 70% of the "GEA" reduction. [The increase in state funding was much less than that]. Recalculated gap is 8.6 million. There were 2.1 million in reductions already; current gap is at 6.4 million. These numbers based on a tax levy increase at the legal limit, which is 5.4%.
  • Regarding the Newburgh Preparatory Charter School, their projected enrollment is reduced to 60 students.[Reduction of 45]. This reduces the budget by $665,850.
  • Recommended that two clerical positions and the Executive Director of Technology be eliminated. [There was discussion about the technology position and a proposal to postpone a decision (which did not pass).]. These were approved by consensus. Clerical reductions $68,569; $62,013. Executive Director: $195,452.
  • Item F: revised NFA curriculum reductions. The house/academy structure is to be maintained. Reduction of 14.4 teachers; saving $1,377,162. There was discussion about this: class sizes would go up; the plan would include a reworking of AIS (Academic Intervention Services required for underachieving students). This was approved by consensus, narrowly.
  • Supply reductions: savings of $209,209. Reduction in extra earnings: $364,408. Textbooks reduction: $10,000. Sick-time buyout reductions: $30,000. Reduce number of instructional coaches in Curriculum & Instruction from 11 to 9: savings of $187,469.
  • With these reductions, the gap is at 3,221,538. Pizzo proposed not making a decision on the proposals to close buildings or reduce kindergarten sections. He gave two reasons: to give representatives from the schools an opportunity to "make their case"; and there were ongoing negotiations with the Newburgh Teachers' Association. Cost savings of closing Horizons on the Hudson: $4,552,354; closing Balmville: $4,372,541; closing Vails Gate: $5,163,375; reducing Kindergarten to half-day: $2,939,673; elementary class adjustment savings would be $654,595. Board agreed to table "these items for consensus until Monday evening after we've heard from the community and the public at large again this evening, and after Monday's special meeting of the board."
  • There were several comments from public speakers. That begins here in the video.

There is a meeting Monday April 22 at 6PM at NFA Main at which there will be time for further public comment.

On Tuesday April 23 at 6:30PM, also at NFA Main there will be a meeting for the BOE to adopt a 2013-2014 budget (no public comment time). That will be followed by the regular April BOE Workshop Meeting.

April 2013 Central Compact

I've uploaded video of the Newburgh School District Central Compact Committee meeting on April 3. At this meeting there were two speakers. Assistant Superintendent of School Improvement Forgit spoke about strategic plans for the district, which include a new district-wide committee that must be created as part of district improvement efforts required by the NYS Education Department. Mayor Kennedy of the City of Newburgh spoke about the importance of education to Newburgh's future.

Here's a link to the video.

Forgit's presentation begins here.

Kennedy's talk starts here.

School calendar changes

According to the district homepage:

Changes to the district calendar will increase instructional time for our students on April 29, 2013 and April 30, 2013. All students are expected to be in session for the entire day on both April 29 and April 30. In addition the last day of school for students is now June 21, 2013.

There are pdf letters to parents and staff regarding the changes.

In other late-breaking schedule news a "BOE Special Metting (Anticipated Excutive Session)" has been scheduled for 5PM at Meadow Hill tomorrow, Thursday April 18--just before the Budget Workshop at 6PM.

McCartney letter to Duncan

Last week there was an excellent letter by NFA teacher Christine McCartney featured in the Washington Post's Answer Sheet blog--Teacher: Why I won't quit despite 'inane' reform.

I applaud the resolution of educators such as Gerald J. Conti and Kris L. Nielsen, for publicly deciding to remove themselves from classroom, especially because they have used their dissent as a platform to spread awareness about current issues in America's education reform. If you haven't come across their widely-read letters of resignation, you can find them here and here, respectively, and they are worth the read. After having spent the past month in Finland, however, gaining new insights from the Finnish education system and having the freedom of time to reflect on my own experiences as a teacher in New York, I have a different kind of letter. Call it my Letter of Resolution. I wrote it because I have had enough. I can't handle any more top-down; I am ready for some bottom-up. I hope you will join me.
...

See also the the letter posted at: https://christinemccartney.wordpress.com/

Budget meetings rescheduled

The Newburgh School District budget meetings scheduled for the next week or so have all been rescheduled two weeks out...

BOE Budget Workshop Scheduled for April 4 has been rescheduled for April 18 @ Meadow Hill
BOE Special Meeting Scheduled for April 9 has been rescheduled for April 22 @ NFA-Main
BOE Special Meeting Scheduled for April 10 has been rescheduled for April 23 @ BOE/Library Complex