NYSED Commissioner recommends Newburgh Prep approval

Among the agenda materials for the November 5 NYS Board of Regents meeting was a document recommending approval of the Newburgh Preparatory charter school. Here is a link to the 12 page report.

The report estimates the 2013-14 financial impact on the Newburgh School District to be 1.9 million (1,715,910 "basic tuition" and 201,965 "estimated district special education payment").

The last few paragraphs of the report:

Granting the proposed charter is likely to improve student learning and achievement, will materially further the purposes of the Act and will have a significant educational benefit to the students expected to attend the charter school. This finding is based on the totality of the information presented in the application and during the application review process, as summarized in this document.


Based on the Department's review and findings, Commissioner John B. King, Jr. recommends that the New York State Board of Regents approve the proposal to establish the Newburgh Preparatory Charter High School to open in 2013 in Newburgh, New York.

Pauline Liu has an article in today's Record about Newburgh Prep: Charter school team didn't do all the math.

Arthur Camins article

There's an interesting op-ed in the Washington Post by Arthur H. Camins, director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey.

A call for President Obama to change course on education
by Arthur H. Camins November 8, 2012

With the election behind us, it is time for the Obama administration to step back from its education policy and access whether its foundation is sound and supported by evidence. It is a moment to summon the courage to change course.

... I have been trying to understand the persistence of education reformers, especially those in federal and state government, in the light of so much contrary, well-articulated evidence. I have been trying to understand how teachers who oppose charter schools and merit pay, or who make the case that schools alone can't undo the effects of poverty, have come to be defined by education reformers as the enemy -- supporters of and apologists for the status quo. Somehow, educators who do not support the reformers' ill-conceived version of disruptive innovation, but who have proposed myriad significant improvement, have been cast as defenders of bad teachers who supposedly believe poverty is destiny. Reformers have become so enamored by their own ideology and so invested in their own course of action that they are unable to recognize the evidence that challenges their policies and unable to recognize the damage it is causing to students.


The whole article is well worth reading.

Noticed this via Jerry Moore's website. The "Last N days" links are a great way to see current news.

Newburgh School District jobs posted

There are a few jobs posted on the Newburgh School District's HR web pages:

The closing date on the Assistant Superintendent of Student Intervention and Support Services posting is November 9, 2012. It's noted as an "anticipated vacancy" -- starting date is not mentioned.

The Newburgh School District offers employees outstanding benefits and challenging work.

Problem with comments

There is a currently a website problem that prevents comment posting. Thank you for reporting the issue. I'll resolve asap.
[Update] comments are working again.

Support of Newburgh Prep charter reversed

Linked on the Newburgh School District website is an October 25 letter from Superintendent of Schools Pizzo to NYS Commissioner of Education King. The new letter is in sharp contrast to the June 20 letter that said "We support this charter school because this charter school, since it will accept students who are currently not in school, will only supplement and improve public education efforts in the Newburgh area as it improves the lives of students who have dropped out."

The October letter closes with these paragraphs:

I do understand the premise behind the charter school in addressing the current dropout rate in Newburgh, which is not uncommon in many city school districts. I assure you that the district is constantly analyzing and evaluating current strategies and programs to address this troubling problem. The creation of a charter school for this purpose is not proven to be the solution.

In closing, I implore you on behalf of the students, tax payers, parents and the Board of Education to do whatever you can within your powers to not allow this charter school proposition to come to fruition.

NECSD Finance Committee October 2012

There was a meeting of the Newburgh School District Finance Committee on Wednesday October 24, 2012 at 4PM. In attendance were BOE President Fucheck, Finance Committee Chairperson Lewis, BOE members Levinstein and Woodhull, Assistant Superintendent of Finance Pacella, School Business Manager Lastowski, one of the school district's attorneys, and an audience of one.

Pacella presented a review of fund balance amounts. As of June 30 there was 7.8 million in unappropriated fund balance. Used 2 million to offset tax levy; in September added 5 one-on-one assistants and 8 aides using 709,000; in October will add 3 special ed teachers for 243,000. Remaining fund balance is 4.9 million.

Looking at the 2013-14 school year. If assume 2 million to offset taxes; NTA contract not agreed yet, but step increases would be 1.9 million; CSEA step increases 220,000; health insurance premium increases may be between 8% and 10% -- increase around 4.1 million;

There is some threat that buyouts will not be allowed by NYS health insurance plan. 225 people currently use this option. This could mean an additional increase of 1.8 million.

Retirement system increases could be an additional 3 million. If the charter school comes, that would be another 1.5 million. So the net increases in the budget could tally to 13.6 million. The 2% cap limits the increase to about 2 million. So could be as much as 11.6 million over the cap. This will change--NYS aid runs come in December, and as get further into the year will have a sense of how current year will end up.

Reserve fund balance is at 13.4 million. Pacella estimates that will spend 4 million of that. Workers Comp and Tax Certiorari reserves will be lower than actuaries would like. If these numbers hold up (and there's no significant increase in state aid) there will need to be severe program cuts.

This doesn't consider any of the other costs that might increase. The issue of substitute costs was mentioned. The district hires about 100 subs a day, roughly 10% of the teachers. Sub salary costs run around 2.5 to 3 million a year.

There was speculation that the State was taking away local control, union-busting, driving districts to bankruptcy, etc. Pizzo said that large meetings at NFA with "aroused peasantry" wielding pitchforks could be expected.

The option of "going for more than 2%" was mentioned. Pizzo pointed out that the City of Newburgh had a 27% increase one year "how do you ask those poor people to raise their taxes, especially when it’s coming out of Albany that we don't need to do it." Pacella pointed out that the districts and county that tried to go over the cap last time weren't successful. Pizzo said it wasn't clear if another building could be closed. There may be too many students for that. Current student population is at about 11,500 (not including those placed out of district).

The finance committee meeting was followed by an audit committee meeting which the public was not permitted to attend.

The next finance committee meeting is to be Thursday November 29. 5PM was mentioned but it is now on the NECSD Google calendar at 5:30PM.

BOE Workshop meeting October 23, 2012

There was a BOE workshop meeting on Tuesday October 23, 2012. There was an audience of around eight. A pdf agenda and supporting documents were posted. The resolutions discussed at this meeting were to be put up for vote at the BOE meeting scheduled for Tuesday October 30, 2012.

The annual audit of the district was very briefly presented by Marc Levy. The audit is 70 pages and was made available to Board Members. Board Member Levinstein commented on the "post employment benefits" figure of $400 million, which was a $100 million increase from the previous year. Levy said this was a projection based on conservative assumptions, and it "goes up significantly every year".

There was discussion about the number of special ed suspensions. [Seemed like on the order of 10 suspensions total from population of 1,740, but the numbers being discussed may have been from the prior month?] Apparently the BOE also had some numbers for suspension rates for the full student population--that topic was reserved for discussion in executive session.

There was discussion around SES, Supplemental Education Services. Assistant Superintendent for Student Intervention and Support Services Noriega explained that there will be close to 2,000 eligible students. He said that this year the district has decided to select two providers: Best Resource Center and Newburgh Performing Arts Academy (formerly the Boys and Girls Club of Newburgh?). Approximately 284 students can be funded for SES.

Three special ed positions are to be created at the high school, based on the needs of IEPs.

Newburgh BOE Meeting September 27, 2012

Video of the September regular BOE meeting is here on YouTube. Before the regular meeting there was the public hearing on the Newburgh Prep Charter School.

Here are a few over-due bullet points:

  • There was a presentation about STEM extended school year program. Two programs at Black Rock Forest; one at Boston University. Veronica Dun, Lori Sheets (West Point Network Science Center), and Jack Caldwell (Blackrock Forest) presented.
  • During public comment on agenda items, Teacher and Coach Ed Kennedy commented on deficiencies in the process of posting coaching positions in the district.
  • A resolution "to create a district Facebook account" was approved. BOE member Levinstein voiced concern about posting procedures. There was some discussion. BOE Member Lawson understood that there is a difference between Facebook and a standard web page; and that one-way communication is not how "social media" generally work. Here's a link to video of that discussion.
  • There were public comments by several parents from Horizons about security problems around the process of admission to the building.
  • Toward the end of the meeting, Lawson suggested that the Board discuss the charter school proposal. The school district attorney confirmed that this was not an executive session topic. Lawson expressed concern that the BOE was not accurately informed about the financial impact of the proposal on the district. He also suggested that there was little evidence that the charter proposal would implement an educational process that could address the needs of the target population. If you have any interest in the charter school, or the process by which the NECSD BOE came to support it and then not support it, do see this part of the video.
  • After the main part of the meeting, the BOE went to executive session until 12:30AM.

No School for NECSD Monday

Just got the robocall. No school for the Newburgh Enlarged City School District on Monday October 29 due to inclement weather.
[Update] School was closed Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, October 29-31.

NYSED Systemic Supports Grant

In a September 5 letter from NYSED to Superintendent Pizzo, NYSED announced contingent approval for the Newburgh School District to receive a grant of $289k for "Systemic Supports for District and School Turnaround". The letter included summary information about the status of Newburgh schools as well as some details about how changes will be implemented as part of required School and District Turnaround plans.

Some bits and pieces:
"... the district will be implementing a Turnaround Initiative..."
Curriculum and assessments will be aligned to common core.
There will be State tests, local tests, SLO tests.
"Administrators and staff will be trained on cultural competency..."
PD will support Bilingual, ESL and Dual Language.
"... the district has agreed to adopt a combination of the Lead Partnership Model and the Internal District Partnership Model."
"Curriculum and Instruction" will be "Teaching and Learning."
Executive Director for C&I will oversee curriculum, assessments, and PD.
Assistant Superintendent for School Improvement will develop turnaround initiative and will evaluate school principals. [Latter point is strongly implied.]
Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources and Executive Director of Human Resources will be responsible for:

  • Alternative Education.[?!]
  • Diversity initiatives.
  • Researching and developing Data systems for evaluation.
  • Growth plans for ineffective and developing teachers and leaders.

The document continues on, saying the district "will design and implement a School Improvement Department" that will do this and that. It's unclear whether that is a new department or some kind of ad-hoc project team. Also CASDA will be hired to "guide the development of a school improvment department", etc.

NYS October Field Tests

An interesting post at www.nystoptesting.com says:

Field Tests coming to NY Schools in October

New York Parents--be aware that NYSED and Pearson are forcing our schools to waste more time on testing. In over 500 schools children will be "guinea pigs" on the Field Tests given from October 23-25. If your school is not selected in the fall, then it will be conducting the tests in the spring.

A "field test" is an exam that Pearson uses to help create the "regular" exams for our children. So basically our students are being used as "test subjects" to create future tests. This is another huge waste of valuable education time trying out test questions for the "real" tests, both of which do nothing to improve our children's education.

List of schools NYSED is forcing to give FIELD TESTS: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B8sMmAT7SjraX0hzb0JhOHhOUkk

The Newburgh City School District schools listed in the document are:

  • Balmville School, Grade 4 ELA
  • Vails Gate High Tech Magnet School, Grade 4 ELA
  • Meadow Hill Global Explorations Magent School, Grade 7 ELA

Better late than never

So the official meeting schedule page and the NECSD Google Calendar were both updated today. The updates include three meetings scheduled to occur yesterday. This is not the first time this has happened, nor the second...

Newburgh BOE Meeting September 27, 2012

Video of the September regular BOE meeting is available on YouTube.

Will post bullet points later.

C4E Public Hearing September 27, 2012

There was a public hearing about the Newburgh School District Contract for Excellence plan on Thursday September 27--in between the Public Hearing on Newburgh Preparatory Charter Proposal and the regular monthly BOE meeting. The C4E Public Hearing is required by NYSED.

Assistant Superintendent of Finance Pacella said that C4E funds were in the amount of $9,376,087. It has been the same amount for three years. There were promises about significant increases in funds, but that has not occurred. Essentially it is a continuation of ongoing programs.

There were no comments. The hearing lasted only a few minutes. Here is video.

Public Hearing on Newburgh Preparatory Charter Proposal

Video of the public hearing is available here.
And here are some notes from the public hearing.
Bullet point version:

  • The Newburgh Prep Charter School would be generate a $1,553,000 year one cost to the NECSD.
  • State aid would not kick in until year three.
  • Fitzgerald didn't realize this two year lag, or the amount the NECSD would have to pay.
  • Several commenters said that the goals of the charter would justify the cost.
  • Some argued that the district would be financially hurt by this significant a charge.
  • There was consensus that the district needed to do something about the dropout rate and academic performance.
  • NYSED will decide whether to approve the Newburgh Preparatory Charter plan.

According to this NYSED page: "Members of the public may submit remarks or comment on applications through charterschools@mail.nysed.gov or by mail to NYSED Charter School Office, 89 Washington Avenue, EBA Room 465, Albany, NY 12234. Comments will be accepted until October 19 at 5:00 p.m."

BOE Workshop meeting September 2012

There was a BOE workshop meeting on Wednesday September 19, 2012. There was an audience of around ten. Board members Howard and Lawson were not present. A pdf containing supporting materials was available from the district website. The resolutions discussed at this meeting will be put up for vote at the BOE meeting on the evening of Thursday September 27, 2012.

Video of the meeting is up on YouTube. Here are a few notes:

A board member expressed concern about the quality of work on doors at South Middle School and stair tread at Temple Hill. Mr. Damon said those items are being revisited.

There was a presentation about Extended School Year programs by Anthony Grice. He described 4 STEM programs that were conducted with partners over the summer.

There was some discussion about a resolution to create a district Facebook account. Board President Fucheck said "the purpose for this is for facilitating the dissemination of information to the community regarding issues and activities in the schools. So it's not going to be a Facebook page like a public interactive thing... the purpose is simply to disseminate information." Fucheck said that anyone who wanted to share information would send it to Ms Butrick. [This has the potential to be as useful as the district web site.]

Among the Committee on Special Education recommendations: ten initial referrals; 36 students transferred into the district; 10 at preschool level and 23 k-12 were classified; none declassified. There was some discussion about home teaching.

During discussion of the proposed purchase of a teacher observation software system Assistant Superintendent for School Improvement Forgit made a clarifying point about the process, "The assistant principals, directors, and principals have the opportunity to observe teachers. The only one who has an opportunity to evaluate teachers is the principal."

Among HR items, five teaching assistant positions and seven teacher aide positions are to be created. These "are the results of special ed children that have entered the district". Assistant Superintended of Human Resources Leimer described the number as "in flux"--"as of this afternoon the seven teacher aides has risen to eight."

A Board Member asked about the ten day posting period being shortened for a recent posting for coaching positions. There was discussion about the coaches doing work before they were appointed by the Board, and also discussion about deficiencies in posting jobs.

NECSD Special Meeting September 19, 2012

There was a Newburgh School District BOE special meeting on Wednesday September 19, 2012 at 6PM

Video of the meeting is here.

Here is a quote from the Committee on Open Government website:

The Open Meetings Law requires that a motion for entry into executive session must indicate the subject or subjects to be discussed. Based on a recent decision of the Appellate Division, as well as earlier decisions, a motion cannot merely parrot the language of a statutory ground for conducting an executive session. It is clear that describing an issue as a "personnel matter," a "legal matter," or "contracts," without more, is inadequate and fails to comply with law. In short, the decision confirms that a motion to conduct an executive session should include information sufficient to enable the public to believe that there is a valid basis for closing the doors.

Meetings this evening

The Newburgh School District BOE workshop meetings are usually on Tuesdays, but the schedule is shifted this month. Tonight there is a Buildings & Grounds meeting at 5PM; a Special meeting at 6PM; and a Workshop meeting at 7PM. An agenda and an "agenda items" document for the Workshop meeting have been posted on the Agenda & Minutes page. There's a link for the Special Meeting Agenda, but it is broken.

Among the agenda items for the workshop meetiing

WHEREAS, the Board of Education is committed to keeping the school community informed about the School District and to facilitating the dissemination of information to the community regarding issues and activities in the schools; and
WHEREAS, social media sites can be beneficial mechanisms for communicating with the school community and reaching more students, parents and other stakeholders;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Board of Education hereby authorizes the
Superintendent of Schools or designee to create an official Facebook page for the Newburgh Enlarged City School District...

HR Resolution M would create several positions:

1 Math (AIS) Teacher - Title IIA & Title IA
1 Reading Teacher - Title IA
1 Special Ed Teacher - Amendment to Ulster BOCS contract
5 Teaching Assisant - Fund Balance
7 Teacher Aide - Fund Balance

From the chart it looks like 15 positions.

NY Education Reform Commission Highlights

Here are some video highights of the testimony at the public Mid-Hudson region public hearing on September 10, 2012.

Jen Marraccino of the Restore Education Funding group in Nyack, expressed parent concern for cuts in funding and the impact of excessive high-stakes testing. [PDF of written testimony]

Thomas Hatch, a TC professor, said systemic change is required. He said that sampling performance instead of testing all students is more cost effective and can promote collaboration, and that test scores are not a sufficient respresentation of student work. [PDF]

Ernest Logan, President of Council of School Administrators, focused on "two critical pieces": early childhood education and superintendent accountability. [PDF]

Bernard Pierorazio, Superintendent of Schools in Yonkers, spoke about early childhood education. He said full day pre-K in Yonkers had a positive affect on academic achievement for the neediest students. He also gave an example of how the new teacher evaluation system stifles academic enrichment. [PDF]

Kelly Chiarella, a regional PTA representative, said that despite supporting evaluation, the dependency on state tests is questionable. She described drastic cuts in music, art, and athletics in Yonkers. [PDF]

Judith Johnson, interim Superintendent at Mount Vernon, said the most significant issue is poverty. [PDF]

Jennie Colabella of Taxpayers for a Better Highland recommended regulation of School Board membership... "Currently there is no law or ethics ruling in the State of New York which prohibits NYS Teachers, local or neighboring school district employees, and their spouses from serving on local school boards. When such a person is elected as a trustee, a clear conflict of interest is present during contract negotiations and tenure votes." [PDF]

Harriet Cornell of the Rockland Legilslature spoke about early education. She described family resource centers in schools and a literacy-based home visit program.

Louis Wool, Superintendent at Harrison Central School District said that funding was a critical issue. He had frank, harsh criticism for the APPR system, calling it "costly and ineffective". He suggested an evaluation system with a five year time-horizon. He suggested that the testing system will inhibit efforts to challege students. He challenged the Commission to follow through on its mandate to "dramatically reform our education system." [Here is the Ken Mitchell Letter at the Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents site]

All the written testimony, including from earlier meetings of the Commission, are available here. All the excerpt videos linked above are available as this youtube playlist.

Newburgh Schools APPR Plan Available

The Newburgh School District's state approved Annual Professional Performance Review plan can be downloaded here. It is one of about 75 district plans linked from this NYSED webpage. It's an important document, but a very difficult read. Perhaps an impossible read.

Here is a story which warns that New York State's APPR system may not work so well... Meet Ashley, a great teacher with a bad 'value-added' score