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:

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

March 29 letter from superintendent

Excerpt from the message from the superintendent posted on the Newburgh School District website:

...the District still faces a deficit of approximately $8.9 million.

On April 4, 2013, the Board of Education will be holding a budget workshop at Meadow Hill School, from 6pm to 8pm. At this time the Board will consider the following recommendations to address the budget shortfall:

* Closing of one of the following elementary schools: Balmville, Horizons-on-the Hudson or Vails Gate,

* Reduction of Full day Kindergarten to half-day Kindergarten,

* Programmatic and staff reductions

As in previous budget workshop sessions there will be 30 minutes allotted for public input on alternate suggestions to reduce the budget gap. Parties interested in speaking should contact the District Clerk, Matthew McCoy, at 845-563-3503 or


2013-14 NYS school aid: about a million more

An article in the Auburn Citizen linked to a scribd document containing NYS projected school aid for 2013-14 as of March 22. Newburgh is on page 56 of the document; or "PAGE 87" of the run. It looks like the Newburgh School District can anticipate about a one million dollar increase in aid over the January 22 numbers.

2013-14 ESTIMATED AIDS: 01/22/13 03/22/13
  FOUNDATION AID 94,599,075 94,879,937
  BOCES + SPECIAL SERVICES 4,471,553 4,464,098
  HIGH COST EXCESS COST 3,502,098 3,502,098
  PRIVATE EXCESS COST 2,005,830 2,055,396
  HARDWARE & TECHNOLOGY 200,604 201,180
  TRANSPORTATION INCL SUMMER 10,630,299 10,604,715
  HIGH TAX AID 3,485,557 3,600,531
  GAP ELIMIN. ADJMT (SA1213) -11,789,185 -11,789,185
  GEA RESTORATION 2,251,742 2,868,417
   GAP ELIMINATION ADJUSTMENT -9,537,443 -8,920,768
SUBTOTAL 113,162,008 114,194,616
  BUILDING + BLDG REORG INCENT 10,528,039 10,526,883
TOTAL 123,690,047 124,721,499

Survey Says: last day

Today, March 25, 2013, is the last day for the Newburgh School District survey. The link to the survey is on the main NECSD page to the top right: K12 Insight.

There's background information on this NECSD page.

BOE Regular meeting March 2013

There was a regular monthly Newburgh School District BOE meeting on Tuesday March 19, 2013. The meeting was at Temple Hill Academy. There was an audience of over 200. Video of the meeting is available on YouTube.

The bullet points...

  • Board President Fucheck re-read the statement cancelling the March 14 and 21 meetings. Next budget workshop April 4, Meadow Hill 6-8PM; another meeting April 9 Meadow Hill 6PM; and finally the budget to be approved by the BOE April 10 Meadow Hill 6PM.
  • Mrs. Toback, a Science Teacher at Heritage, and four of her students presented information about a water testing program. Students learned about testable properties of groundwater; ran tests; and submitted data to a state website.
  • Steve Gold, the Chief of Staff of Assemblyman Frank Skartados gave an update on the status of the NYS budget. [this is about 14 minutes into the video] Mr. Gold described the budget process. There are two houses in the legislature, Senate and Assembly. The Governor presents a budget and then the two houses must compromise to get to a budget that can be approved. He said that School State Aid is expected to have a $290 million increase. Money is targeted to Foundation Aid and reducing the Gap Elimination Adjustment.
  • The Board asked several questions and postponed approving a resolution to establish an articulation agreement "in the CTE program" with Bryant & Stratton College. Board Member McAfee proposed that this be discussed at the Curriculum Committee meeting on April 2 at 4PM.
  • The Mid-Valley mall $602,000 and Newburgh Mall $1,139,500 property tax refunds were approved--also the necessary transfer of $1,700,000 from the Tax Certiorari Reserve to the General Fund. A transfer of $969,738 from the debt service fund was approved.
  • During HR items Board Member Lewis requested that the home teaching appointments be voted separately. Most of the BOE voted no on this. BOE President Fucheck said that an alternative location was being set up to replace home teaching. Executive Director of Human Resources McLymore said April was a target for the alternative location.
  • Lewis also objected to the hiring of regular subs off the sub list, claiming neglect to the hiring of minorities. This resolution narrowly passed.
  • During the public comments there were over 20 speakers. Almost all of them spoke in support of Horizons on the Hudson. 8 Parents, 12 students, and a teacher spoke about Horizons. A parent spoke about the lack of information about district goals and a teacher made some specific recommendations to reduce district expenses.
  • After a two and a half hour executive session, some HR appointments where adjusted; a litigation settlement was approved; resolution 120209a was rescinded [This was the resolution, passed at a special meeting on December 2, 2009 (by the vote of Bowles, DeMarco, Giudice, McAfee, Poppiti, Vesely, Woodhull, and Fucheck), which terminated the probationary appointment of Joyce Mucci as an Elementary Principal, effective January 8, 2010]; and Joyce Mucci was placed on administrative leave "effective her last day of her employment as a building principal and until the time of her resignation, to be effective the close of business on September 2, 2014. [So the Mucci lawsuit was settled.] An independent evaluator was also appointed.

How to run for Newburgh School District Board of Education 2013

Running for the Board of Education has a few minimal requirements (district resident, not an employee) and you will need to collect 100 signatures on a petition. The District Clerk, Mr. McCoy, can provide you with a packet of information with all the details. According to the NECSD 2013-14 budget page: "Petition forms are to be returned to the District Clerk by 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 1, 2013. For additional information, please call Matthew McCoy, District Clerk at 563-3503."

This year's budget vote and election are on May 21, 2013. For your reference, here are the results of the voting for the past five years: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012.

What is a Board member supposed to do? Here are two suggested references:

1) New York State Education Law 2503 states the powers and duties of boards of education.

2) There is a brochure titled "Raising the Bar: A School Board Primer on Student Achievement" which is available as a pdf from the ERIC website. "This guide provides ways in which school board members can lead their school systems to higher levels of student achievement. The text attempts to help board members by equipping them with comprehensive information about the various components of student achievement."

That PDF is temporarily unavailable from ERIC. Here is a copy of Raising the Bar: A School Board Primer... (3.8mb pdf).

NECSD BOE Workshop March 12, 2013

There was a workshop meeting of the Newburgh School District BOE on Tuesday March 12, 2013 at the Newburgh Free Library auditorium. The resolutions to be voted on March 19 were discussed.

Here's video of the workshop meeting.

  • Board Vice President Freeman-Resch led the meeting, and began by reading an announcement of cancellation of the March 14 and 21 budget meetings.
  • There was discussion about Board Members attending meetings via Skype.
  • Terry Damon gave the construction projects update.
  • HOH Principal Lisa Buon and several staff members gave a presentation about programs and progress at Horizons
  • Board Member Levinstein asked why evaluators were no longer printed on the SIS reports provided to board members. In recent meetings Levinstein had expressed concern that the evaluators were subsequently hired to provide the services that they recommended. District Lawyer Shaw pointed out that "the law doesn't require that board members review the names of the evaluators..."
  • Board members asked some questions about the School Innovation Fund Grant partners: these include the Glen Hines Boys & Girls club; two professors from Mount Saint Mary; and the Greater Newburgh Hudson Valley Health Partnership. This is the grant for Temple Hill (the district's "priority school").
  • The district lawyer recommended a review of insurance coverage in connection with a field trip to Paris France. Board Member McAfee noted some peculiar wording in the trip proposal.
  • Finance items included very large property tax refunds: $602,000 for Mid-Valley Mall; $1,135,000 for the Newburgh Mall. Balance in the Tax Certiorari fund is estimated at $2.4 million.
  • Board Member Lewis asked questions about home teaching during both the SIS and HR items.
  • The board recessed to executive session "for the employment history of particular individuals and for matters leading to the employment of particular individuals."

2013-2014 Budget Meetings Announcement

At the Newburgh School District BOE Workshop meeting on Tuesday March 12, 2013, BOE Vice President Freeman-Resch read an announcement about a change in the schedule of budget meetings. Budget meetings scheduled for March 14 and 21 were cancelled.

Here's video of the announcment.

It has come to the district's atention that the budget will be enacted on March 22 [this is referring to the New York State budget]. There is potential that our district will be receiving additional funding from the state in the final state budget. This information could potentially change the outcome of our projected 2013-2014 district budget. This information coupled with the fact that we have received no new information since the last budget workshop held on February 21 at NFA Main led us to the decision to revisit our budget workshop schedule. The next budget workshop will be on April 4 at Meadow Hill from 6 to 8. This will allow the Board to make informed decisions about the budget with the most updated and accurate information.

Last half hour will be for public input on April 4. There will be another meeting April 9, Meadow Hill 6pm with one hour of public input. April 10 there will be a meeting, Meadow Hill 6pm, for the Board to adopt the budget.

It's strange that the fact that the NYS budget may be enacted early is a reason to delay work on the NECSD budget.

Budget meeting postponed

Per the NECSD website "The budget meeting has been rescheduled to next Thursday, March 14th at Temple Hill Academy, beginning at 6PM."

NECSD School Closings

Here is a list of school building closings in the Newburgh School District in recent decades...

School Last School Year Open
West Street School 2010-2011
Washington Street Pre-K 2010-2011
Renwick Street Pre-K 2009-2010
Heritage at Stewart Junior High 2008-2009
Broadway Elementary School 2002-2003
Chestnut Street 1996-1997 ?
Old Balmville School Building mid 1980s ?
Union Grove School early 1980s ?
Liberty Street School 1979-1980

Corrections welcome.

Heritage at Stewart thread.
THR on Broadway Elementary.
Evening News on Chestnut Closing in 1980s.
Hudson Valley news on Chestnut Closing in 1990s.
Newburgh Restoration on Liberty Street.

BOE Regular meeting February 2013

There was a regular monthly Newburgh School District BOE meeting on Tuesday February 26, 2013. I'll add some bullet points soon...
For now, video of the meeting is available on youtube.

Budget Meeting Two Video

Video of the February 21 budget meeting is available on youtube.

Budget Meeting Two Feb 21, 2013

Here's the bullet point version of the second Newburgh School District 2013-2014 budget planning workshop. Video will be posted some time tomorrow.

  • "Looking for $9.8 million"
  • BOE was provided with: last two years of reductions, extra earnings line-by-line. current year status report, current year proposed summary of changes. [Public was provided with: nothing. Last year's budget is on a web page.]
  • In order to provide full time security monitors to elementaries without affecting the budget, reductions were proposed at other schools: NFA Main -2, NFA North -1, Heritage -1, South -1, Temple Hill -1, Meadow Hill -1. Also what to do if no grant funding for the Community Resource Officer next year? No consensus on this--pending further looking at security status report.
  • Retirement expenses can be reduced by 200,000 because of the payout schedule of the 2010-11 retirement incentives.
  • "Schedule A" retiring positions recommended not to be filled: (1) payroll dept jr accountant, (1) visually impaired teaching position. Saves 189,000.
  • "Schedule B" recommend that two clerical positions and the Executive Director of Technology be eliminated. Business Office would oversee infrastructure; C&I would assume educational technology, data collection, school library services. Coordinator of Family and Community involvement would assume attendance and registration functions. Saves 326,034. "Bubbled" for further discussion in executive session.
  • Six cleaning positions are not filled. Recommend reduce the positions. Save 355,107.
  • Reductions in C&I budget lines: furniture & equipment reduced by half, BOCES in-service reduced fully. Save 87,000.
  • "Schedule E" elementary and middle staff reductions. Net FTE 23.4 totaling 2,017,000. It was difficult to understand the scope of this. It included some cuts to music (but it was said that the instrumental program would continue to be offered at grade 4), librarians, AIS positions, Foreign language, Art. After removing the two librarians, two ais teachers, and two foreign language teachers the total was 15.5 positions for a savings of 1,327,300. [Doesn't add up, not sure why not.]
  • NFA curriculum reductions. The BOE asked about the effect of the proposed changes on the "houses". Money could be saved by increasing class size "to the max", and not keeping students within the house structure. APs would be assigned to grade cohorts. Savings would perhaps be 1.8 million. Tabled for further analysis [around preserving house structure].
  • "Schedule G, H, and I" closing of an elementary school. Recommended closing was Horizons -- Central Office could move to Horizons, Registration from Washington St to Horizons, Special Ed Offices from Chestnut to Horizons, Welcome Center from Washington St to the Library, Technology from Washington St to Chestnut. In event of a closing, students would be divided up among the other schools. Several BOE members thought it important to retain an elementary within the City of Newburgh. After discussion, BOE requested further information about closing Vails Gate.
  • NTA President Plichta suggested the BOE consider another retirement incentive in order to save money.
  • Former BOE member Bowles said that at the Newburgh Prep Board meeting earlier today that some option for the NECSD to apply for/request funds was mentioned. NECSD administrators said they hadn't received anything.
  • New Windsor School Psychologist Caci spoke about an effort to make the work of school psychologists Medicaid reimbursable again. She encouraged the district to support this effort.
  • There will be a regular monthly BOE meeting on Tuesday, February 26, 7PM at Temple Hill School.
  • The next budget workshop meeting is Tuesday, March 7, 6-8PM at Meadow Hill School.

Shorter video of budget meeting one

There has been a lot of interest in the video of the first budget meeting of the Newburgh School District BOE on February 7. However, at at 90 minutes, the full meeting video is quite long. Here is a shorter video for budget meeting one. It covers just the main points in five minutes.

The second budget meeting is to be this Thursday at 6PM at NFA Main.

Budget Meeting One Feb 7, 2013

The bottom line from the first budget meeting this evening: The calculations for the "2% tax cap" would permit the Newburgh School District to increase taxes by 6.13% this year. However, because of increases in expenses, even taxing at 6.13% the budget gap is $9,839,000. Closing an elementary school could close the gap by 5 to 6 million. Switching kindergarten to 1/2 day could close the gap by 3.5 million.

Video of the February 7 budget meeting is available on youtube.

BOE Regular meeting January 2013

There was a regular monthly Newburgh School District BOE meeting on Tuesday January 29, 2013. Here's the bullet point version...

  • There was a large audience present for recognition of scholar athlete team awards.
  • Microscope purchase was tabled in order to get further information.
  • Consultant contract with CASDA tabled for discussion in executive session.
  • A contract with the Carol & Frank Biondi Education Center in connection with an IEP was tabled until after executive session so that the amount of the contract could be made available to the board.
  • An item J was added to the finance items: Board accepts the donation of $30,000 from Friends of Newburgh Crew to be used for funding the boys and girls varsity crew teams for the 2012-2013 school year...
  • Item C of the HR agenda was separated from the rest. This resolution was for three home teaching appointments. There were four no and five yes votes: item carried.
  • HR resolution M, appointing eight temporary regular subs and one temporary title 1 provider - reading received three no and six yes votes: item carried.
  • HR resolution P increasing the amount of a contract with Cheryl Bivona received a couple of no votes. [The agenda item documentation for the January meeting did not state what the rate of this contract was. If this is an extension of the contract approved in November 2012 the per diem rate is likely $600 per day.]
  • HR item T, a supplemental MOA with the CSEA was "the agreement establishing summer school rates".
  • HR item U, a supplemental MOA with the NTA was "the agreement that establishes Girls to Ladies as a program as opposed to a club".
  • There was brief discussion about the Fencing Club situation after the HR resolutions were voted.
  • Several meeting minutes from December and January were approved. They can be found in the posted agenda items doc.
  • NTA President Plichta spoke during public comment time. He spoke positively about a conference he attended at the Center for School Improvement and proposed working together with administrators and the Board toward a common vision.
  • Grace Bowles made comments about a Diversity Committee Meeting, some aspects of the APPR, and personnel matters.
  • After a three hour executive session the CASDA consultant contract was approved; the Carol & Frank Biondi Center contract was approved; and an item AA was added to amend the school calendar for this year to set the NFA graduation date to June 26, 2013.

Video of the meeting is available on youtube.

Finance Committee meeting January 2013

There was a meeting of the Newburgh School District finance committee on Thursday January 24, 2013 at 5PM. Here are notes from the meeting. However, please be aware that the budget gap for 2013-2014 was revised significantly upward at the February 7 budget meeting.

BOE Workshop meeting January 2013

There was a BOE workshop meeting on Tuesday January 22, 2013. The items to be voted at the January 29 regular meeting were presented...

  • Board President Fucheck opened the meeting with some comments about security policy.
  • Katherine Gilligan the District Libraries Facilitator, introduced librarians from the elementary, middle, and high school level who presented information to the board about the work of library media specialists.
  • Board Member Levinstein received recognition from NYSSBA for his efforts.
  • There was discussion about Special Ed data and suspension data.
  • The BOE requested more information about a purchase of microscopes (more than $100,000).
  • IB was briefly mentioned among conference requests.
  • The Fencing Club may go the same route as the Crew team did -- establish a non-profit corporation and raise funds to cover costs (including stipends).
  • Among HR items there was discussion about resolutions involving coaching and training positions.
  • There is a resolution to establish "Girls to Ladies" at Heritage as a program instead of a club.
  • There is an updated district calendar - regents exam dates are revised to June 17 to June 25.

Video of the meeting is available on youtube. I don't often video the workshop meetings, but had the camera set up for the Special Meeting and let it run.

NECSD Special Meeting January 22, 2013

A special meeting preceded the Newburgh School District BOE workshop meeting on Tuesday January 22, 2013.

The Board went directly to executive session "to discuss the employment history of particular individuals and for matters leading to the employment of particular individuals."

When the meeting resumed, these resolutions were passed:

  • BOE authorizes the President to execute a stipulation of settlement...regarding an SED case.
  • Creates seven FTE temporary school monitor positions effective January 23, 2013 through June 30, 2013. Funding source is the fund balance.
  • BOE accepts the resignation of Adrienne Davis-Pittari ... pursuant to a letter of resignation ...

Video of the meeting is available on youtube.