February 2012 BOE meeting video available

And... video of the February 28, 2012 Newburgh School District Board of Education meeting is up, too: embedded player or via YouTube.

January 2012 BOE meeting video available

Video of the January 31, 2012 Newburgh School District Board of Education meeting is up. Try an embedded player or via YouTube.

Robo-call says early dismissal Feb 29

Bad weather anticipated. The call said all after school and evening activities are cancelled--that would include the BOE Budget Workshop Meeting which had been scheduled for 7 PM.

Newburgh Schools Finance Committee Feb 16

On Thursday February 16 there was a meeting of the Newburgh School District Finance committee. The meeting was held in the auditorium and began with a presentation by Assistant Superintendent of Finance Pacella. In addition to the committee there was an audience of about twenty--mostly staff, plus a few current and former BOE members.

Pacella presented an overview of the budget process and the effects of the new tax cap law. He said budgets can exceed the cap if approved by a vote of over 60%; but on the other hand if a budget does not get 50% approval then the tax levy cannot exceed the previous year's.

Pacella presented the state formula for the tax cap. Current tax levy is 97,554,000. After all adjustments the allowable levy is 100,133,000. This represents about a 2.6% increase in the tax levy. If state aid stays the same the net effect on the budget is a 1.7% increase.

Looking at aid, the net effect of expected state and federal changes (after factoring out state building aid) is a decrease of 2.5M.

Pacella next looked at rolling forward the current budget. By including pension, contractual obligations, etc, with no cuts or reductions, a tentative budget for next year is 240,800,000. Subtracting local revenue (utility tax, tuition, 2M anticipated use of fund balance--basically all revenue sources other than aid and property tax), and anticipated aid: the taxes needed to support the current budget rolled forward is 113,000,000. So if we intend to hold to the limit under the tax cap, we're starting with a budget gap of 13.7 million dollars.

Major increases to the budget:

  • Employees retirement contribution went up to 18.5%.
  • Teachers retirement contribution went up 3.1 million.
  • Medical insurance expected to go up nearly 6 million.
  • Debt service up 3.3 million.
  • Salaries up 6.1 million. Pacella said this was not because of raises. He said that those on a step (e.g. all NTA) advance a step automatically every year. [To most people an increase in salary from one year to another is called "a raise".] Pacella also said that the step increases for CSEA amounts to 1.4% and NTA amounts to almost 2% increase. [It's possible that in some kind of aggregate the effect of NTA step increases is 2% but the percentage increase for most steps is greater than 2%.]

Next steps. Not possible to produce a preliminary budget without affecting programs and eliminating positions (the major increases in expense are all staff related). The superintendent will deliver a budget to the Board. It's not likely it will be under the cap. At budget workshops there will be further discussions. Budget vote is May 15.

In 2010-11 there was a 6.1 million reduction and reduction of 27 positions. In 2011-12, 17.8 million reduction, another 139 positions.

Adopting a budget over the cap requires specific language on the ballot. In the past the vote was on the budget, this year it will be on the tax levy. There's also an option to put specific programs on the ballot. This would require the same language about exceeding the cap.

In the past it was possible for the contingent budget (adopted if the budget does not pass--after an optional second vote) to result in a substantial increase in the levy. Under the new law the contingent budget cannot result in a tax increase. If the budget does not pass an additional 2.5 million would need to be cut.

The PowerPoint from the presentation will be available from the district website.

There were only a couple of questions. Art Plichta asked if student transportation could be one of the items put up for separate vote. Pacella said that some mileage limits could be changed via policy change, but there are state requirements.

Superintendent Pizzo said that budget meeting dates would probably be settled at Tuesday's BOE workshop meeting.

Board member Levinstein asked if the state aid numbers were "set in stone" at this point. Pacella and Pizzo both explained that for planning purposes the best assumption is to work from those numbers-the Governor's budget. It's possible that the NYS legislature can make changes. April 1 is the adoption deadline for the state. Typically the district has a budget proposal by the end of March.

The finance committee then went to executive session "to discuss employment history of particular individuals and propose acquisition, sale, or lease of real property, securities only when publicity can substantially affect he value thereof. The Board will not be taking action after the executive session."

The meeting lasted less than twenty five minutes.

More details about meetings

On the Meeting Agendas & Minutes page on the NECSD website, if you look at the links for the 02.21.2012 Workshop Meeting, besides the usual link "Agenda" there is another link "Agenda Items" which has additional important details about several of the resolutions to be discussed at the workshop. The availability of this information is likely a response to new Open Meetings Law disclosure rules. Whatever the reason, this is a positive development for the Newburgh School District.

Basketball and attendance again

There is an article in the Record today, Newburgh District censors $11K hoops-scandal report which describes the paper's eforts to obtain various reports about the basketball attendance problem. The Record notes that even the final conclusion of one of the reports is obscured.

That is consistent with the statement made by Attorney Shaw last year. Quoting some old meeting notes:

Attorney Shaw presented a statement about the basketball attendance issue. One piece of information he provided was what Ruglis was actually hired to do, "to answer were the members of the 2008-09 2009-10 boys basketball team allowed to cut classes". Shaw didn't say how or even whether Ruglis managed to answer that question.

That was back at the June 28, 2011 Regular BOE meeting, a meeting for which minutes are not available.

Curriculum Committee Meeting, February 7, 2012

There was a Newburgh School District Curriculum Committee meeting Tuesday February 7.

Click through for the notes.

NTA election results

The NTA election results have been posted on the NTA website. Art Plichta was elected to be the next NTA President. It looks like about 500 retirees and around 1000 non-retirees voted.

A few news items

Happy Valentine's Day everyone. Here are a few news items--more meeting reports soon.

  • Doyle Murphy of the THRecord wrote a short article last week recounting Boad Member Giudice's poor attendance and recent resignation. Among the details: that the resignation letter was one sentence long and offered no explanation.
  • In the Feb 6 THRecord an article by Meghan Murphy explains Newburgh plans to hire high school principal this month. It says in part:

    CASDA called references and vetted 75 qualified applications and recommend a group for interviews.

    Those finalists began interviewing Friday. They will meet with several teams, comprising community members, parents, students, higher education representatives and other district staff.

    The district's goal is to hire an executive principal by the end of February, Butterworth said.

  • The Newburgh Teachers' Association is having officer elections today.

Board Member Giudice resigns

At the Jan 31 BOE meeting the District Clerk, Mary Lou Botsford announced that "Board Member John N. Giudice submitted a letter of resignation as a member of the board of education effective February 1, 2012."

Jan 2012 BOE bullet points

Here's the bullet point version of the Newburgh School District January 31, 2012 Regular BOE Meeting.

  • The expected NYSSBA presenter had to cancel and is expected to reschedule.
  • District Arts Director Theresa Brown was recognized by the Orange County Arts Council.
  • Art Plichta, a teacher in the district, commented that increasing class sizes will be detrimental to students, especially in younger grades. He called for a bold budget without layoffs.
  • Board President Fucheck commented that the Board was considering a reduction in the number of polling places as a cost saving measure, but that will not occur this year.
  • Board Member Giudice resigned by letter effective February 1.
  • Approval of spring athletic coaching appointments was tabled for executive session discussion.
  • There were strong complaints from public speakers about a girls sports coach.
  • Two public speakers had complaints about resolving special ed services or paperwork situations.
  • Former Board Member Bowles complained about lack of a Martin Luther King Day event, community relations, and lack of instructional leadership.

After nearly three hours of executive session the Board did the following:

  • Approved the recommendation of the Superintendent that the board terminate the services of the Palumbo group. This is a firm that does construction project management.
  • Removed from the table resolution 0131128. This resolution was not discussed during the public part of the meeting.
  • Approved most of the spring coaching appointments (HR Resolution P). It seems that 17 of 24 numbered items were approved. One was voted down.
  • Approved comprehensive education plans "for the schools as listed."
  • Approved a facilities use request for the New Windsor/Cornwall rotary club.

BOE Attendance

The BOE attendance page has been updated.

Newburgh Schools Finance Committee Thursday Jan 19

Thursday January 19, 2012 there was a meeting of the Newburgh School District BOE Finance committee at 5:30 PM.

In attendance were BOE members Lewis, Levinstein, Woodhull, Vesely, Board President Fucheck, Assistant Superintendent of Finance Pacella, Superintendent of Schools Pizzo, and School Business Manager Lastowski. In the audience were Board Member McAfee, Administrative Intern Ramjug, and I.

There were seven bullet points on the agenda

  • Extra Earnings through 1/6/2012
  • Home Teaching costs through 1/6/2012
  • Twilight costs through 1/6/2012
  • Progressive Academy breakdown
  • Special Education Student Placements
  • Teacher Aides and Assistants Breakdown
  • Federal and State Aid for 2012/2013

1. Extra Earnings through 1/6/2012

Pacella handed out this and several other reports to Board members. They reviewed this while waiting for the meeting to assemble. The board expressed concern about the amounts indicated for some individuals and also for the grand total on this report. Pacella explained that the report included sick day buyouts, retirement incentives, overtime hours, part-time hours (such as after school programs, security, police costs), all stipends ("Schedule J" which includes sports coaches, musical group leaders, class and group advisors, etc.). The report did not include subs (which Pacella said amounted to around $2.2 million last year).

2. Home Teaching costs through 1/6/2012

Through Jan 6 the total was $280,000--not necessarily suspended children, also included special education kids awaiting placement. Pacella said he didn't have the information to break it down by categories.

3. Twilight costs through 1/6/2012

Included a homework assistance program at the middle schools. NFA to date has spent $30,000. Pacella said the Principals there are focusing on alternatives to the twilight program. Report didn't include administrative costs--that would be an additional budget code.

4. Progressive Academy breakdown

Pacella said that Dr. Noriega provided this. This was past summer and the summer before. Total for the program was $24,000. "Projected student enrollment" was noted to be 60. Board members questioned what the actual enrollment was.

5. Special Education Student Placements in out-of-district and parentally placed locations

There are 267. 126 are going to six different BOCES locations (Southern Westchester 1, Rockland 7, Putnam 6, Duchess 10, Ulster 6, Orange-Ulster 96). 77 kids in day schools--Pacella mentioned transportation is a significant expense. 14 in residential. In response to a question Pacella said that parents can place students in any parochial; placement in residential or day school is through a CSE.

Fucheck said that there might be options for some of these students to apply for St. Christophers, which just opened recently. Pizzo mentioned that St. Christophers will be grade 7 to 12. The district submits costs to the State through a STAC process. Pacella said that an area where the real cost to the district is significant is the in-district placement with required ratios of teachers and assistants: 1-6-4, 1-8-1, 1-8-4, 1-12-1, 1-15-2. He said that you can't exceed the ratio even if attendance of students in the class means the ratio in the classroom is very different than the ration on paper. [Apparently the BOE made some decision along these lines in the past.]

6. Teacher Aides and Assistants Breakdown

Pacella said the report was broken down by school, included pre-K teaching assistants, K and first grade assistants, some could be in health office as aides or assigned in library. Special Ed could be an aide or an assistant. For a disability that required additional instruction--that would be an assistant. There are 156 assistants, and 49 aides. Pacella said total cost was not on report; for budgeting purposes an average cost is used--for an assistant 55k, for an aide 50k. That would be "total package" salary, benefits, health. Salary is on the order of 22k to 37k. Assistants are part of TRS, probably going to 12.5% and Aides are on the ERS, probably going to 16%. A 1% increase in the TRS costs the district about a million. [TRS and ERS are state pension systems.]

7. Federal and State Aid for 2012/2013

Pacella said that the Record report of 1.23% increase for Newburgh is not accurate. He said if you look at the Newburgh aid run from NYS it may appear that aid went up $7million--but you need to back out the building aid. There was a change in the building aid due to refinancing of some bonds. Taking that out, the change is only $483,000. Another change for next year: Federal jobs money (around $3million) will not be present this year. So the net effect of Federal and State Aid is expected to be a decrease of $2.6 million. It is possible the district may see more than that when it goes through the STAC process.

Pacella said that Fucheck called David Little of NYSSBA and asked him to come to the next school board meeting. Pacella and Fucheck had heard Mr. Little make a presentation about budget matters recently.

Pizzo: he will come to the January 31st regular board meeting to present his views.

Pacella: he's actually a lobbyist for NYSSBA who has lobbied hard that this [presumably tax cap and/or Governor's budget proposal] not be implemented. Cannot get the budget within this amount without severe cuts in programs.

Fucheck: get the word out that Mr. Little is coming to speak about the state budget and what it is causing in districts.

Pacella recommended letting the community build the budget. He mentioned an initial estimate that about $15 million in cuts is needed. Can't cut this without causing a huge problem. Colleagues [other finance directors] are talking about half day kindergarten, closing kindergarten, closing more schools. Running Kindergarten [in NECSD] runs around $8 million. The cost for pre-K is just about $200,000.

[Some discussion about planned spending of fund balance to offset tax levy. The NECSD fund balance has been depleted over the past couple of years.]

Fucheck: The governor and the legislatures have put school districts in a position where they are jeopardizing a constitutional right for a sound and basic free public education.

[Discussion of the required language on ballot for a budget over the 2% amount. There was consensus that the required language would make it difficult to pass.]

Pacella: if the budget is defeated, instead of a contingency budget with a significant CPI increase [as in past years], the tax levy cannot be increased over prior year amount.

Pacella: for the next finance meeting I'll come up with a list of all the items bubbled in the past and non-mandated items. Maybe start with the mandated budget and add items back in.

Pacella mentioned the idea of adding items on the ballot as separate proposals. Kindergarten, a school, or athletics might be presented as a separate item. The public could then approve the budget (at close to the 2% cap), and optionally approve other items.

[There was discussion about a recent tussle at a Newburgh Kingston girls' basketball game.]

Lewis requested a report of teacher absences for the current school year. He was keen to review this.

Levinstein requested a finer detailed Excess Earnings report that would differentiate overtime v. sick day buyback, etc. Pacella said it would be difficult to do this because it may not be easy to tally the data by those types of categories.

[There was discussion about videotaping the NYSSBA person's presentation and making it available on the district website.]

Special meeting and private retreat Jan 11

On Wednesday January 11, 2012, at 3:30PM there was a Special meeting of the Newburgh School District Board of Education.

Eight of nine BOE members attended: Fucheck, McAfee, Levinstein, Lewis, Prokosch, Resch, Vesely, and Woodhull. Superintendent of Schools Pizzo and Clerk of the Board Botsford were also present. Board member Giudice was absent.

The BOE adopted revised policy 5200 Comprehensive Student Attendance and 6653 Audit Committee on two readings. The attendance policy change allows building principals to recognize "valid exceptional circumstances" that qualify as an excused absence. The BOE also awarded a contract for plumbing in connection with the GAMS Science rooms' alterations.

The meeting was over in about three minutes. Here's the video:

Following this meeting the BOE had another meeting, a "retreat" with two NYSSBA consultants, which was not open to the public. The Board chose not to provide any information to the public about this event or its purpose.

The people from NYSSBA were Barry Entwistle, Director of Leadership Development (who wrote an article about the usefulness of retreats in 2008) and Jay Worona, NYSSBA General Counsel.

Central Compact Meeting, January 6, 2012

There was a meeting of the NECSD Compact Central Committee on January 6 at 6:30PM at Balmville School. The main presentation at the meeting was from four teachers who described their use of Moodle, a web site development tool. Their presentation was enthusiastically received.

Click through for notes.

Curriculum Committee Meeting, January 3, 2012

There was a Newburgh School District Curriculum Committee meeting last Tuesday. Most of the meeting was an update about curriculum development efforts. There was a demo of the Rubicon Atlas software which some teachers in the district have been trying out.

Click through for the notes.

NYSED testing not good

In an excellent article in the New York Times last week, Michael Winerip presented a 10 Years of Assessing Students With Scientific Exactitude--a synopsis of NYSED's recent testing efforts. It's difficult to fully enjoy Winerip's wit because the story presented is so sad--false hopes and failure at every turn.

In the last decade, we have emerged from the Education Stone Age. No longer must we rely on primitive tools like teachers and principals to assess children's academic progress. Thanks to the best education minds in Washington, Albany and Lower Manhattan, we now have finely calibrated state tests aligned with the highest academic standards. What follows is a look back at New York's long march to a new age of accountability.

DECEMBER 2002 The state's education commissioner, Richard P. Mills, reports to the state Regents: "Students are learning more than ever. Student achievement has improved in relation to the standards over recent years and continues to do so."

JANUARY 2003 New York becomes one of the first five states to have its testing system approved by federal officials under the new No Child Left Behind law. The Princeton Review rates New York's assessment program No. 1 in the country.

SPRING 2003 Teachers from around New York complain that the state's scoring of newly developed high school tests is out of whack, with biology and earth science tests being too easy and the physics test too hard. The state Council of School Superintendents finds the physics scores so unreliable, it sends a letter to colleges for the first time in its history urging them to disregard the test result. Dr. Mills does not flinch, calling the tests "statistically sound" and "in accordance with nationally accepted standards."

JUNE 2003 Scores on the state algebra test are so poorly calibrated that 70 percent of seniors fail. After a statewide outcry, officials agree to throw out the results. The Princeton Review says that ranking New York first was a mistake. "We're going to have to come up with a fiasco index for a state like New York that messes up a lot of people's lives," a spokesman says.

...

Director title swap

On the Newburgh School District "Contact Information" webpage it looks like the new director job descriptions have gotten mixed up. The page says:

...
Bilingual Education, ESL and Foreign Language, Carmen A. Vazqueztell
...
Social Studies and Accelerated Learning, George Teasdale
...

What was discussed at the BOE workshop meeting and approved at the Dec BOE meeting was to have "Bilingual Education, ESL and Accelerated Learning" and "Social Studies and Foreign Language".

December 2011 BOE meeting videos available

Video of the December 20, 2011 Newburgh School District Board of Education meeting is up. There are embedded players on this page or here are links to view at YouTube: excerpt 1, excerpt 2, and the full meeting.

December 20 NECSD BOE regular meeting bullet points

At the December 2011 Newburgh School District BOE meeting last night:

  • There was recognition for the fifth grade math team and for the retirement of District Photographer and AV Expert Greg Thompson.
  • The Board President praised the quality and accomplishments of the NFA Career and Technical Ed Program and the elementary IB program at Horizons. She said these programs had impressed visiting education experts.
  • A resolution to approve the job description for Executive Principal of NFA was separated from being grouped with revised job descriptions for "Director of Social Studies Education and Foreign Language", and "Director of Bilingual Education and Accelerated Learning Programs". One board member voted no on the Exec Principal job desc.
  • Meeting minutes for Sept and Oct regular meetings, and for three Special Meetings in November were approved. They will probably be on the district website soon.
  • During public comments, teacher Ms. Hutchinson again expressed concern for the affect of the new attendance policies on participation in the Girls to Ladies club. She explained that there has been a real case of a student who it is the goal of the club to help, being turned away because of the attendance policy.
  • A retired police sergeant with experience working with schools expressed support for the Girls to Ladies club. He said that students who find ways to participate are much less likely to run into trouble with the law.
  • Former BOE member Grace Bowles took issue with the Executive Principal job description.
  • Most agenda items were approved routinely. A couple of HR items (each was "an aggreement with an employee") were tabled for discussion in executive session. The meeting went to executive session after less than an hour.
  • After about 90 minutes in executive session, the board approved one of the two HR items that had been tabled earlier. The other remained tabled.

Video will probably be up on Friday.