New York Education Reform Commission September 10, 2012

Yesterday the NY Education Reform Commission held a public hearing at SUNY OCCC in Newburgh. The event was at Kaplan Hall, in the impressive meeting room that overlooks the Hudson. Between nine and fourteen commission members were present during the meeting, which ran from 1 PM to 4:45. There was an audience of about 100. NECSD attendees included Board President Fucheck, NTA President Art Plichta, and Executive Director of Instructional Technology Jensen. Jensen spoke in one of the panels.

After brief introductory remarks by Chairman Dick Parsons, a series of panelists sat, summarized the written testimony they had submitted, and answered questions. A broad range of topics were mentioned including school district consolidation, funding issues, too much standardized testing, the new APPR system (several speakers noted a gap between aspiration and implementation), the effect of poverty on students, cutbacks (some sound significantly more severe than the NECSD cuts), parent involvement in school, unintended consequences of rules and regulation, etc. One speaker even brought up the issue of Board of Education members who are former employees participating in contract negotiations and votes which affect themselves financially.

I'll create shorter videos featuring some of the presenters. For now here is a video of the whole event.

See also The Hall Monitor blog.

Newburgh BOE Committees 2012-2013

The Newburgh School District Board of Education has several committees that meet monthly: Curriculum, Library, Policy, Porsonnel, Finance, and Building & Grounds. The committee meetings offer a preview of the items that will be voted upon at a regular BOE meeting. The committee meetings are less formal and more conversational than Workshop or Regular meetings.

Here is some documentation about committee chairpersons and members for 2012-13 and the meeting schedule for this school year. Meeting times and dates are subject to change.

Today, September 11, the schedule calls for a Personnel Committee meeting at 2:30 PM and a Curriculum Committee meeting at 4:00 PM. Both are at the Superintendent's Conference Room at the Newburgh Free Library.

Newburgh BOE Meeting August 28, 2012

The August Newburgh School District BOE meeting bullet points:

  • Presentation by Executive Principal Nodel.
  • Presentation by Superintendent for School Improvement Forgit.
  • $160K for leveled readers.
  • $402K for student assessment instruments from CTB/McGraw Hill.
  • Final 2011-12 Orange-Ulster BOCES contract was $7 million.
  • $2.45 million from reserves (Tax Cert, Unemployment, Workers Commp) to General Fund.
  • Three and one-half hour executive session. Three tabled HR items approved.
  • A Media Communications teacher position was created.

Video is available on YouTube.

Click here for August 2012 meeting notes.

NYS Field Tests in October

The September 7 Wall Street Journal reports:

Students in 550 schools around New York state this fall will sit for another standardized test that doesn't count, as the state again tries to fine-tune future test questions, according to a memo sent to superintendents.

The sampling of New York schools will administer the tests in late October to students in fourth through ninth grades at public, charter and private schools.

Faced with a similar practice test in June, some parents in New York City and elsewhere in the state vowed to remove their children from school or refuse to allow them to participate.

NY Ed Reform meeting in Newburgh September 10

Excerpt from MidHudson meeting information document at the NY Governor's Putting Students First website.

The New NY Education Reform Commission is a twenty-five-member Commission charged with examining the current structure of the state's education system through the lens of what is in the best interest of students. This is one in a series of public hearings that the New NY Education Reform Commission is holding to gather input from local stakeholders as well as the public on actionable solutions to improve New York's public education system in order to better meet the needs of its students while also respecting the taxpayer.

What: The Mid-Hudson Region public hearing for the New NY Education Reform Commission

When: Monday, September 10, 2012 from 1-4pm

Where: SUNY Orange County Community College, The Great Hall in Kaplan Hall, 80 Grand Street, Newburgh, NY 12550.

Space is limited; please RSVP by sending an e-mail to

The New NY Education Reform Commission is specifically looking for solution-oriented input on:

The Structure of New York's Public Education System ...
Teacher and Principal Quality and District Leadership...
Student achievement and family engagement...

Monday, September 10 happens to be the first day of school for the Newburgh School District.

Newburgh Prep Charter Proposal

The Newburgh School District has received a formal letter of intent about the "Newburgh Prep" charter proposal. The letter explains that a public hearing about the proposal should occur within a month. This is the charter school proposed by Tom Fitzgerald.

A 196 page long, 37mb pdf file containing the proposal is available here. There is also an Excel spreadsheet containing a proposed budget. Both of these documents are linked from this NYSED page.

Some notes on the proposal...

  • "Key design elements of Newburgh Prep's program include: 1) a school year of approximately 215 days; 2) a school building open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. each school day; 3) classes in session from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m...." first page of document.
  • "Objective: Newburgh Prep's primary objective is to provide students who have not completed high school with an opportunity to graduate from high school and to prepare them for college and career", p 3.
  • Projected enrollment is 105 for year one (2013-14 school year), growing to 305 year five, p 7.
  • Founding group and proposed Board of Trustees spelled out on pp 40-41.
  • "Newburgh Prep will follow and uphold the Open Meetings Law." p 42.
  • School's proposed location is 121-123 Broadway, p 50.
  • "The NECSD is responsible for providing transportation services for Newburgh Prep students...", p 52.
  • There is a letter of support from the NECSD, signed by Superintendent Pizzo and Board President Fucheck, p 60.
  • Admissions Policy begins after the page numbered 62. "Because Newburgh Prep is designed to serve the needs of students who have dropped out of high school, graduating 8th grade students are not eligible to apply to the school."

BOE Special and Workshop meetings August 2012

There was a Newburgh School District Special Meeting and a Workshop Meeting on Tuesday August 14. These meetings followed the Hudson Scholars charter school public hearing.

At the Special meeting just a few items were voted on. First, an overnight travel request was approved. The Board went to executive session for a while and then voted to adopt the findings and recommendation of a hearing officer and terminate the employment of Mark Rohanis [sp?] effective August 14, 2012.

Marcie Heywood was appointed to be an Acting Assistant Principal August 15, 2012 to June 30, 2013.

A Finance resolution to approve the tax warrant was also approved. Total amount (NECSD and Library) is $104,104,146 to be collected between September 1, 2012 and March 31, 2013.

The Special Meeting adjourned and Workshop Meeting began.

There was the usual construction update from Terry Damon. The heaviest work is going on at GAMS.

There was a brief presentation by Maxine Nodel at the Workshop meeting. She is the new Executive Principal at NFA. She noted the absence of a vision or mision statement on stationery at NFA, so worked with her admin team to come up with one. The short version is: "Preparing students for excellence in college, careeer, community." She would like to see this motto displayed on baners at the high schools "to assist setting the new tone of change at NFA".

Hudson Scholars Charter Public Hearing August 2012

On August 14 at 6PM there was a "Public Hearing on the Hudson Charter School Application".

Superintendant of Schools Pizzo began the meeting by recognizing the presence of State Senator Larkin, County Legislator Eachus, and NTA President Plichta. He said Assistant Superintendent of Finance Pacella would make a presentation "on what a charter school in the Newburgh School District will cost the taxpayers in the Newburgh District." Here is the PowerPoint document from the presentation.

Pacella presented some good background information. He said according to rules and regulations the district is required to hold a public hearing, document comments, and send them to Albany to the New York State Charter Schools Institute. The district received official notice about a "Hudson Scholars Charter School" proposal so that's why there's a public hearing. Year one the proposal is that school would be k-2 (with 196 students) growing over five years to k-8 (570) with desired opening date of August 15 [that would be 2013].

Pacella explained that charter schools are "public funded educational institutions governed by a not for profit board of trustees--not governed by this board of ed." They can design their own program and policies, and manage their own staff and finances. He said that a charter school would be financed "by basic tuition payments from the resident of the school district, meaning us, on property taxes and state aid as calculated by the State Education Department." The district would make six payments (July through May). Failure to make a required payment would result in an automatic deduction from state aid.

Pacella said the projected financial impact would be a year one payment of $2.9 million. He did not expect that the district would qualify for any additional aid to cover this. The effect would be an increase in the budget, "without any identifiable savings". He said it would not be possible to reduce staff in the district because the 196 charter students would be from classrooms and schools throughout the district. The charter school would be treated similarly to a private school in terms of transportation and library aid--there would be additional expenses to the district there.

Ms Vanessa Bisone from CSEA commented, "speaking tonight on behalf of CSEA Southern Regional President Billy Riccaldo." She said the CSEA had serious reservations. She expressed concern about diversion of aid and possible staff cuts.

Senator William Larken spoke. He said it is a good idea to look at anything that can improve education. He expressed concern for "filling the gap" if resources are diverted from the district. He mentioned that there is another application coming in September that is looking at students that have dropped out. That will be different because there may be new revenue to cover those costs.

County Legislator Chris Eachus spoke. He is also a teacher in the district. He said he printed the 70 page proposal. The lead applicant is Nick Valentine, and Dr. William Swort and Mr. Ronald Jackson are associated with the proposal. Eachus read this from the proposal p15, "For generations the public school system has failed the children in Newburgh, and while this has persisted for a variety of reasons, experts cite the fact that the schools in the neighborhoods fail to recognize that the natural ecology of these areas undermine academic preparedness and consequently achievement. This coupled with the chaos that so often defines their life outside the schools results in the children in the child welfare system simply being unable to prosper." Eachus's rejoinder to this was "what about New Windsor?" and "who was responsible for the chaos?", pointing to Mayor Nick Valentine.

NTA President Art Plichta suggested that the proposal sounded too good to be true. He said that "many of the things listed in the proposal are strategies that are currently or soon to be implemented in the Newburgh City Schools, as part of State requirements for evaluations and the new Common Core curriculum."

President of Newburgh Supervisors and Administrators, Vinnie Lopez, spoke. His main concern was with the diversion of funds from the NECSD for the benefit of a select population of students.

Pizzo explained that a transcript of the comments would be forwarded to the state as required. Larkin requested that a copy also be sent to John Flanagan, chair of the NYS Senate Education Committee.

In the end, all the effort to criticize the proposal may have been unnecessary. The Record reported on August 15 that "This week, former Newburgh Mayor Nick Valentine withdrew the application for his Hudson Scholars Charter School after the SUNY Charters School Institute informed him of problems." The brief article suggests that Valentine may reapply in January.

The Hudson Scholars Charter School proposal dated July 2, 2012 is available here.

Newburgh a Focus District For 2012-13

NYSED has published school and district "Accountability Designations" for 2012-13. The data is available here.

Here is the data for Newburgh schools extracted from the District and School Status spreadsheet:

BEDS Name 2012-13 Accountability Status
441600010020 TEMPLE HILL SCHOOL Priority
441600010000 NEWBURGH CITY SD Focus District

441600010006 GAMS TECH MAGNET SCHOOL Focus
441600010010 NEW WINDSOR SCHOOL Focus
441600010016 SOUTH MIDDLE SCHOOL Focus
441600010001 BALMVILLE SCHOOL Focus

"Focus" and "Priority" are new labels that replace "improvement/corrective action/restructuring" as a result of New York State's ESEA Flexibility Waver. Below are a few excerpts from the overview document that accompanied the data.


On May 29, 2012, the United States Department of Education (USDE) approved New York's ESEA Flexibility Request. The approved flexibility request can be found at New York's approved waiver called for the previous school and district accountability designations (i.e., improvement, corrective action, and restructuring) to sunset at the end of the 2011-12 school year. Beginning with the 2012-13 school year, new designations have been implemented that include the identification of Focus Districts, and Priority and Focus Schools, and Reward Schools. As a result of this change, fewer schools will be in accountability status compared to the 2011-12 school year, but interventions and supports will be more intensive and extensive.


Sixteen districts chose to identify all of their schools as Focus Schools...

Focus Districts must create and implement District Comprehensive Improvement Plans (DCIP) that outline how the district will use Federal ESEA as well as other funds to promote the academic achievement of the accountability groups identified within the district. Focus Districts will have new funding options as a result of the waiver, as there is no longer a requirement to offer Supplemental Educational Services (SES) to students who attend Title I identified schools. Focus Districts will now use a 5 to 15 percent set-aside to fund district and school level activities described within the District Comprehensive Improvement Plan targeted towards increasing the academic achievement of the identified subgroups. Each Focus District will be visited by a State Education Department Integrated Intervention Team that will use a Diagnostic Tool for District and School Effectiveness to assist the district and its schools in developing and implementing improvement plans based on six tenets of educational effectiveness.


Priority Schools are among the lowest performing 5 percent of schools in the state and will be identified once during the three year period of the waiver. Priority Schools are required to develop and implement, no later than the 2014-15 school year, whole school reform models that address the USDE's Turnaround Principles. Districts with Priority Schools have several funding resources to support implementation of whole school reform plans. ...

NAACP meeting about NECSD

According to an article in the THRecord, NAACP hosting meeting on NFA scandal Thursday, there is to be a meeting at Newburgh City Hall at which the NAACP will "will provide an update of its investigation and offer its position". The article isn't explicit about the date of the meeting, but presumably it is tonight. I won't be able to attend. Comments are welcome from anyone who does.

Newburgh BOE Meeting July 17, 2012

On July 17 there was a regular meeting of the Newburgh School District BOE.

Board President Fucheck was not present; Vice President Resch led the meeting. Board member Lewis was not present. There was an audience of about four.

There was an acknowledgement of the NFA Solar Racing Team's participation in a Shell sponsored event in Houston, Texas. Chris Eachus spoke further about the event. He explained that energy efficiency was the goal, and thanked the Board for their support. Mrs. Eachus told a very nice story about how some of the NFA kids helped a team from Brazil to get their car running so they could participate.

The Board recessed to executive session, "for the following purpose: to review the employment history of particular individuals". The executive session lasted about two hours. After it, there was no one else in the audience besides me.

Two different versions of the "Agenda Items" for this meeting were published on the NECSD website. The first, included some details about construction change orders, conference requests, finance items, HR items A-D only (no details). This document is no longer available on the NECSD website, as far as I can tell. Here is a copy.

The second version, (which replaced the earlier one on the NESCD website some time after July 23) omits several items in the first version, but includes significant details about the full HR agenda, items A-P. Among the HR details: revised job descriptions for Executive Director for Human Resources and Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction. Stipends were approved for Michael McLymore and Daniel Shanahan "for assuming additional duties and responsibilities in accordance with their revised job descriptions..." Resolution N approved a "job description for Assistant Superintendent for School Improvement" and Ed Forgit's title was changed to "Assistant Superintendent for School Improvement". Beverly Johnson was appointed acting Principal effective August 1, 2012 to June 20, 2013.

Video of the meeting is available on the Newburghedinfo YouTube channel.

James Patterson at the Newburgh Free Library in July

On July 14, 2012 author James Patterson visited the Newburgh Free Library. He talked about his connection with Newburgh and his experiences as an author. He also answered many questions from the audience. The talk was followed by a book signing event. Many students from the Newburgh School District attended, asked questions, and waited in line to have books signed. A James Patterson book, "Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life" was recently distributed to NECSD fifth graders, who will be entering middle school next year.

Video of James Patterson talk is available on YouTube.

Admin Salary Increases

Some readers noticed a discrepancy between the supposed 1.5% salary increase for administrators approved at the October 2011 Board of Ed meeting, and the over 5% increases reported for some employees in NYSED salary disclosure information. I FOILed for details about the resolutions passed in October 2011 and received these details.

The documentation indicates that the Assistant Superintendent of Finance, Executive Director of Human Resources, and Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources did not receive a "salary adjustment at 1.5%", but instead received "longevity adjustments" in amounts of around 5.8, 6.6, and 7.2 percent of their then current salaries.

It seems that all of the salary increases approved in the two resolutions were made effective July 1, 2011, 116 days prior to the vote.

NECSD Special and Workshop Meetings July 10, 2012

There was a special meeting and a workshop meeting of the Newburgh School District BOE on July 10, 2012 starting at 6:30PM. Lawson was the only Board Member absent.

The Board immediately adjourned to executive session "to review employment history of particular individuals and the employment history of particular corporations or firms".

At 7PM a workshop meeting began. During the summary of summer construction projects, Terry Damon said "our major project this summer is at Gidney Ave, which we'll be talking about again a little bit later and we'll give a full report about everything that's going on over at Gidney Ave this coming month."

There were some questions and discussion around the Special Education recommendations. Board Member Lewis asked about students who were "pending placements" and others who were suspended. There was also some discussion about declassification. It seems 43 students were declassified and the total "classified" as SWD is 1412. Attorney May suggested that the 44 "parentally placed" students should be reviewed.

There was also some discussion about medical services to be provided to the district by a doctor, and a facility use request for a worship service.

Superintendent of Schools Pizzo presented the Curriculum and Instruction agenda. Board Member McAfee expressed embarrassment about a teacher attending a worthwhile conference was covering all the expenses by themself without district assistance.

Assistant Superintendent of Finance Pacella presented the finance items. They included an initial contract with Ulster BOCES for educational services in the amount of $924k. Pacella mentioned that the Orange-Ulster contract would be around 7 or 8 million. There was a property tax refund in the amount of $18K. Pacella pointed out that this would be a direct charge against the Tax Certiorari Reserve. Nothing was allocated in the Operating Budget for these tax refunds. Pacella mentioned that there is a large future refund anticipated for the Newburgh Mall. Pacella also mentioned that the district will know how the year closed out (and whether there will be surplus funds to replenish reserves) in about a month.

The board adjourned again to executive session "to review employment history of particular individuals and the employment history of particular corporations or firms".

A little more than 90 minutes later, the board voted and approved three resolutions:

A. "Resolution to award contract for the district's capital construction project at Gidney Avenue Memorial School K-8 Conversion Renovation."

B. Dr. Noriega to serve as "authorized resolution session representative for Special Education hearings".

C. Facility use approved for Newburgh Free Library (in connection with James Patterson appearance.)

The GAMS contract may be the single bid $2.5 million+ contract that was mentioned at the June 19 Workshop meeting. No discussion or presentation about the Gidney Avenue work occurred in public session.

Here's a link to the video of the July 10 Special and Workshop Meeting.

Revised 2012-2013 Calendar

The calendar for the NECSD 2012-2013 school year was updated on July 3. The first day of school for students is to be Monday, September 10, 2012. A pdf of the calendar is available from the Newburgh School District website.

NYU Metrocenter event

Board President Fucheck is quoted at the Gotham Schools blog while attending an event sponsored by the NYU Metrocenter. Gotham Schools describes the event as "a daylong conference on how to incorporate lessons on diversity and cultural sensitivity into the classroom."

Several educators said that they hoped they could learn from the event's workshops and presentations to help get the difficult conversations flowing at their schools.

"It's really been a process of putting a plan together," said Dawn Fechuck, the school board president at Newburgh Enlarged City School District, which the state has recently been flagged. She plans to tell the other board members about the idea of a "community school" model, which she learned about in one of the workshops she attended. With 63 percent of Newburgh's student population at or below the poverty level, their needs often extend far beyond the classroom, Fechuck said.

But first, the district adopted "a new code of conduct so that there would be less punitive measures," she said.

NECSD Special Meeting July 3, 2012

Despite being very brief, several important resolutions were approved at the Special Meeting of the Newburgh School District Board of Education on Tuesday July 3.

The meeting started a litttle after 6PM instead of the scheduled 5:30PM because the organizational meeting ran late.
The bullet points...

  • All board members present.
  • Meeting began with an hour executive session.
  • Capital Area School Development Association (CASDA) to help prepare Comprehensive Education Plans for South Middle and Temple Hill.
  • HR D. Dennis Camt appointed Assistant Principal at Meadow Hill.
  • HR E. Elizabeth Ten Dyke appointed Director of Secondary Interdisciplinary Curriculum and Assessment.
  • HR G. Director of ELA and Reading to retire June 30.
  • HR H. Agreement with a numbered employee and the Newburgh Supervisors and Administrators Association.
  • HR K. Supplemental MOA with NSAA (Supervisors and Administrators) concerning APPR (Performance Reviews).
  • Revision to 2012-2013 District Calendar
  • HR N. Approve a professional leave of absence
  • HR O. A professional retirement.
  • HR P. Rachel Schuyler appointed Assistant Principal at South Middle.
  • Video is here.
    There are additional details in the July 3 Special Meeting Agenda Items document.

NECSD Organizational Meeting July 3, 2012

Tuesday July 3, at 5 PM the NECSD BOE met for its annual organizational meeting. This meeting usually consists of a long list of individual and company appointments. Half an hour had been scheduled for the meeting.

The meeting began typically enough with the taking of the required oath of office by one returning (Resch), and two new (Lawson, Howard) board members. Things went smoothly until item "Designation of Official Newspaper(s)". Four papers were listed The Mid-Hudson Times, The Sentinel, The Times Herald Record, and The Hudson Valley Press. There was a lengthy debate about the Record...

Points in favor of designating The Record an "official" paper

  • widely distributed in the City of Newburgh
  • it is the only daily paper among the four
  • unrealistic to expect paper to only publish good things
  • important way of communicating to the minority community

Points against designating

  • they only report the negative, not the positive
  • not fair and balanced
  • they need to be held accountable

There was general agreement on a need to meet with The THR to air differences, "get some kind of agreement", etc. Superintendent Pizzo said that despite differences with the THR he would recommend approving the paper and arranging to meet.

When a vote was called, it went 5 to 4 against designating The Times Herald-Record.

Here is video of the meeting.

Newburgh BOE Meeting June 27, 2012

The June regular BOE meeting was on Wednesday June 27 at the Newburgh Free Library auditorium. It was preceded at 6:30 PM by the annual hearing on the Code of Conduct. There was an audience of around 24 for the hearing. Assistant Superintendent for Student Intervention and Support Services Noriega read through the changes to the Code of Conduct. The changes were mostly additions of words, phrases, and occasionally an added bullet item on a list.

The audience grew to 60 or so for the BOE meeting. The bullet point version:

  • Crew team reinstated.
  • Resolutions were added for leasing arrangements with Apple and Dell.
  • Art Plichta commented on a need for greater respect for and increased consultation with teachers.
  • Grace Bowles thanked retiring District Clerk Botsford for her service.
  • Coach Kennedy thanked the BOE and commented on long history of rowing in Newburgh.
  • MOA "one year successor agreement" with Newburgh Administrators and Supervisors was approved.
  • Supplemental MOA with NTA concerning new annual reviews was approved.

Click through for June BOE meeting notes.

Video is at

Court of Appeals OKs Small City Schools lawsuit

In 2008 a lawsuit was begun by the New York "Small City School Districts" group against New York State. The Newburgh School District is part of this group (as are Beacon, Middletown, and Poughkeepsie). The crux of the complaint is that NYS has failed "to appropriate sufficient funds to permit each of the Plaintiffs' Districts to provide sufficient educational services to all their children to insure opportunities to meet or exceed the statewide standards of educational quality and quantity and to obtain a sound basic education".

Yesterday there was a significant decision by the NYS Court of Appeals. NYS had requested that the suit be dismissed but the Court of Appeals has ruled that the case should proceed.

There are links to the decision, history of the case, and media coverage, over at the Small City School Districts website.