Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Holiday wishes, Core beliefs

It seems like just yesterday the school year began, and yet winter is here and holiday recess begins next week!

With that in mind, I thank teachers, staff, students and parents for their kindness and their generosity this holiday season. Throughout the month of December, our Junior High Student Council has had its annual Adopt-an-Angel program while the High School Student Council has collected food for the local food bank. Teachers and staff from both buildings (WES, WJSHS) have bought gifts for children of local families in need to help make their holidays brighter.

Please take time this season to enjoy the most cherished gift of all—time spent with family and friends. I wish everyone peace and joy this holiday season.

Thoughts on the Common Core

Switching gears, you may have seen an article in the Times Union (Dec. 15) about the Common Core Learning Standards that featured interviews with educators from Watervliet. The article, which offers a glimpse into the efforts our teachers put forth each and every day to implement the new learning standards, has generated a good deal of positive feedback.

When I met earlier this month with the new education reporter who wrote the article, the topic of the state’s learning standards came up in conversation. At the time, I expressed that by and large, teachers in our district had ‘embraced’ the new learning standards, which seemed to surprise the reporter.

That is understandable given that the Common Core continues to make headlines almost daily and is often the topic of debate. At issue is the pace of implementation, concern regarding the amount of testing, or a combination of the two.

Most educators I know are not opposed to the higher academic expectations inherent in the new learning standards. I think that confusion surrounding the Common Core persists in general because, as polling suggests, there is not widespread understanding of the standards. In fact, a Siena Research Poll released in mid-November found that 41 percent of those surveyed were either "not very familiar" or "not at all familiar" with the Common Core standards.

As a result, misinformation about the standards abounds. The Common Core Learning Standards, which aim to improve student knowledge of math and reading, were developed to address a concern that U.S. students were lagging behind their international peers in college and career readiness. Education leaders from several states began writing the new standards in 2009 and received guidance from the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

New York is among the 45 states and the District of Columbia that have adopted the Common Core Learning Standards. The New York State Board of Regents adopted the Common Core standards in 2010 with the intention of better preparing all students for college and career in a rapidly changing world. The standards create consistent expectations at each grade level for students throughout their K-12 education.

Providing necessary support for teachers
I am proud to say that Watervliet is among a handful of districts across the state that Deputy State Education Commissioner Ken Slentz has said he considers to be “executing well” the implementation of the Common Core. A number of our teachers have appeared in State Education Department videos demonstrating high-quality lessons that address Common Core instructional shifts and goals.

Our school leaders recognize the integral role professional development plays in helping teachers make necessary adjustments in the classroom. Through grant funding, we are able to provide our teachers professional development each week with literacy and math instructional coaches from the Capital Region BOCES.

Even with support, change can often be difficult and challenging. Our teachers from kindergarten through grade 12 have embraced the changes and risen to the challenges of implementing the new learning standards. Their focus has been and will continue to be inspiring, challenging and educating every student, every day; that will never change.

Again, enjoy the holiday season everyone!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thank you School Related Professionals!

Today (Nov. 19) is School Related Professionals Day—a recognition of all the unsung heroes who make a positive difference in the lives of our students and provide support for our teachers and our schools.
In 2007, the New York State Legislature officially designated the third Tuesday of each November as School-Related Professionals Day—as a  special day to honor and celebrate school-related professionals including school bus drivers, food service workers, teaching assistants, school nurses, custodial and maintenance workers, and clerical and support staff in schools.
So whether you are driving our students on a bus, feeding our children in the cafeteria, cleaning our hallways and classrooms, or assisting teachers with our learners, your hard work and dedication is much appreciated.
We thank you today and every day for going above and beyond to meet the needs of our schools and our students.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Requests for APPR scores

Beginning this month, all parents/guardians will have the right to request Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) quality ratings and composite effectiveness scores for their child's current year teacher(s) and principal(s).

To receive your child's teacher or principal evaluation score, parents and legal guardians must make a request in person, or in writing, starting October 15, on the district’s official Teacher/Principal Composite Score Request Form.

A district or building administrator will provide teacher/principal composite scores verbally to the parent or legal guardian during a scheduled appointment.

When making a request for teacher/principal scores please be aware of the following:
  1.  To obtain scores, parents/guardians must first submit an official request form.  (A separate form must be completed for each score requested.)
  2. At the time the request is made, clerical staff will ask for identification (i.e. driver’s license, passport, etc.) to verify the person making the request has legal guardianship of the student(s) and is therefore entitled to the teacher/principal effectiveness score. 
  3. Every effort will be made to schedule an appointment with the appropriate building/district administrator within seven working days of the request submission. 
  4. During the appointment, the administrator will provide the composite score verbally to the parent or legal guardian.
It is also important to note:
  • Parents/guardians may only request scores for the teacher(s) and/or principal of record for your child in the 2013-2014 school year.
  • Teachers will be notified when parents request their scores.
  • The law requires districts to “verify that any such request is a bona fide request by a parent or guardian entitled to review and receive such data.”
  • An appeal of the APPR by the teacher/principal will delay providing this information until such time as the appeal is decided.
  • You may request to receive the final rating and composite score for your child’s teacher(s) and/or principal, as well as an explanation of such ratings, in person or in writing.
  • The new evaluation system will not change current district practices for assigning students to teachers, and requests for such action will not be honored. 
  • Teacher/principal APPR information is not considered public information, and as such, is not subject to the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).

More about APPR
APPR is the process by which teachers and principals are evaluated in New York State.  The purpose of evaluation is not punitive, rather it is intended to improve the quality of instruction in schools, and to encourage and promote improved student performance and readiness for college and careers.

APPR plans must meet strict state guidelines and are negotiated locally by the district’s employee labor unions.

Under state guidelines, APPR is based on classroom observations, student test scores, and a variety of achievement and assessment measures – many of which are decided at the local level. Teachers and principals across New York ultimately receive a number grade every year, which equates to an effectiveness rating.

In accordance with Education Law §3012-c, parents or legal guardians of a child in the Watervliet City School District have the right to obtain information related to the Annual Professional Performance Review of their child’s current teachers or principal. 

The district will accept requests to receive teacher or principal scores starting October 15, 2013.

Request forms and additional information below:

Parent Request Form (pdf)

Questions and Answers about APPR (pdf)

Parent Guide to the APPR (pdf)

NYS exam scores mailed: What it means for your child
Parents will receive individual student scores for the New York State English language arts and math assessments in grades 3-8 taken last spring with their child’s interim reports, which we expect to mail the week of Oct. 7.

These reports indicate the scores and performance level for your child on the given assessments. As a result of the transition to the new Common Core Learning Standards, state education leaders expected that student scores across New York would be significantly lower than the year before. You may find that echoed in your child’s score. The NYS Commissioner of Education asked school officials to assure parents that these latest proficiency scores “do not reflect a drop in performance, but rather a raising of standards to reflect college and career readiness in the 21st century.”

Watervliet educators encourage parents to reassure children that any test is just one measure—a snapshot in time—of academic progress. Students and parents should know that this is a new system for everyone, and the tests given last spring were more challenging than those taken by students in prior years. We do not interpret these lower test scores to mean that our students are not learning or that our teachers are not teaching.

While Watervliet school leaders continue to evaluate the results of the state assessments, we also consider them in the context of the larger purpose of education, which is to make sure that students have the skills, knowledge, and experiences required for college and career readiness.

Parents whose children received a Level 1 or 2 on the NYS math and/or ELA assessments will receive a separate letter from their child’s principal outlining the instructional plans or services that Watervliet has put in place to help build upon their child’s future success.

If you have questions, please contact your child’s principal. Additional information about Common Core, interpreting state test scores, what parents can do to help their children learn, and more can be found on the Parent & Family Resources web page on the State Education Department's EngageNY website.

Please be assured that we will continue to review and analyze data, identify areas for improvement, and  adjust instruction as necessary during the school year.

On behalf of our teachers, principals and staff, I promise you that we remain committed to our mission to educate, inspire and challenge every student, every day.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

New beginnings: pivotal transitions and the new school year

Summer 2013 has been a busy time marked by physical transformation in our schools, as well as administrative changes to begin the new school year.

I am eager to welcome back students and staff to school next week and am excited about new developments that have taken place in recent weeks that will strengthen our ability to provide every student the high-quality education they need and deserve.

Aside from the many visible renovations in our buildings and construction of a new athletic field, the most significant change students, staff and parents will notice as the new school year begins on Wednesday, Sept. 4 is the administrative changes occurring at both buildings.

With the release of the New York State assessment results in August, we now have the baseline data needed to hit the reset button and begin again to move the district forward, implement best practices and demonstrate continued student growth.

In the weeks since, it became clear that to accomplish our goals and meet our top priority—preparing students from pre-K through grade 12 for college and careers in a global economy—we would need to be proactive in our effort to maximize the strengths of all administrators, teachers and staff across the district.

With that in mind, longtime WJSHS high school assistant principal David Wareing will serve this year as the assistant principal and UPK director at WES. Literacy coordinator Suzanne Guntlow will assume the role of assistant principal at WJSHS, and will continue to facilitate professional development for teachers that focuses on strengthening students’ literacy skills and improving performance at the junior high school level.

Reading, writing, listening and speaking skills are the foundation for student success in all subject areas, which is why I firmly believe this shift in administrators, particularly, having Suzanne on site at WJSHS as a member of the administrative team and as a resource for her peers, is in the best interests of our students.

Principals Ryan Groat and Terri O’Brien will continue to lead WJSHS and WES, respectively, while Michael Foust will remain as the district’s athletics coordinator and serve in the new title of Dean of Students.

Our district welcomes a new School Resource Officer (SRO) this year, Watervliet Police Officer Josh Spratt. He takes over for Sgt. Mark Spain whose dedicated service over the past six years made a significant and positive impact on the lives of students and staff. School administrators and I look forward to working with Officer Spratt and continuing a strong, collaborative partnership that enhances student safety and promotes smart choices and positive behaviors in our school

Deeds and expectations
I recently attended a conference during which New York State Education Commissioner Dr. John King Jr. spoke at length about making sure our “daily deeds match our expectations.”  I encourage all teachers and staff to make every effort possible this year to make sure that our daily deeds align with and achieve our mission to educate, inspire and challenge every student, every day.

I invite parents to become more involved with your child’s schools and encourage the community to become our partner in education. We must all work together to support our community’s young people and increase their opportunities for success. 

In preparing to begin my third year as superintendent of schools, it continues to be an honor working with such talented and committed administrators, educators and support staff, and serving this community and its children.

I also want to recognize and thank our maintenance staff for the enormous amount of time and energy they put in these last few weeks to get our buildings and classrooms ready for the return of students and staff. Your teamwork has been nothing short of amazing!

I look forward to the beginning of a productive and successful school year—until then enjoy these last few lazy, hazy days of summer!

Friday, August 9, 2013

NYS test results

The State Education Department (SED) released the results of the state English language arts and math exams on August 7.

Earlier this year, SED officials had cautioned school leaders, teachers and parents in Watervliet and around the state of a probable decline in test results. That is because for the very first time this spring New York’s students took tests based on the new more rigorous Common Core learning standards. SED officials based the prediction on research and the experience of other states that had previously implemented and tested students on the new national learning standards. Those states, in fact, reported a decline in tests scores after preliminary testing; consequently, SED fully anticipated the same would occur with results in New York.

As the scores are reported in the media and digested by parents and educators, it will be important to keep the following in perspective:

First, state education officials emphasize that with the new standards come increased expectations. A drop in scores is not indicative of our students’ abilities to learn or our teachers’ abilities to teach. The state tests administered in the spring are the first our students have taken based on the new Common Core learning standards. These results will be used to establish a new benchmark from which to measure student performance in future years.

Second, the 2013 test results should not be compared to results from last year or prior years because students are being tested on new, more rigorous learning standards that reflect more complex skill sets and concepts and require different strategies for approaching questions and solving problems. As in years past, the state assessments will have no impact on students’ grades; the results are used mainly to determine whether students require additional help with math or literacy skills.

Finally, while educators, parents and students naturally tend to place importance on state test results, these scores essentially represent a snapshot in time. The greater purpose of education is to make sure that students have the skills, knowledge and experience necessary to live successful and productive lives.

As educators and students continue to transition to the Common Core standards, we remain committed to preparing our students to be college and career ready—and to honoring our mission to educate, inspire and challenge every student, every day.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Another school year comes to an end

The end of the school year presents a time to celebrate the accomplishments of our students and to thank teachers, staff and administrators, as well as the school community for their commitment and their support.

As classes and exams quickly wind down, I look forward to attending the celebrations that mark milestones for our youngest and oldest students alike.

This week, our UPK and kindergarten students will celebrate their Moving Up ceremonies on June 19 and 20, respectively; our sixth-grade students will graduate from the elementary school on June 21, and later that evening our Class of 2013 will receive their diplomas beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the Harry Tucker Gymnasium at the high school.    

It is with pride that I recognize Cassie Bryant and Lea Liburdi for earning the top honors as valedictorian and salutatorian of the Class of 2013, respectively. Cassie plans to attend Hofstra University in the fall and enroll in the physician’s assistant program, while Lea will study biology and plans to participate in the drama program at SUNY Albany. Both young women are members of the National Honor Society and were involved in many extracurricular activities throughout their school careers.

I speak on behalf of the faculty, staff and administrators when I congratulate all of our graduates as each moves on to the next stage of their lives, whether that means first grade, the junior high school or pursuing college and careers!

This year was especially challenging for teachers and building principals in light of significant changes in education, specifically the implementation of the new Common Core State Standards and the rollout of a new, more extensive teacher and principal evaluation systems—or Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR).

I applaud our administrators for making sure that teachers had weekly opportunities for professional development and the support necessary to align curriculum and adjust instructional strategies to the Common Core. I am proud of the work our teachers accomplished in implementing the new more rigorous learning standards, and the teamwork, collaboration and professional growth that has occurred throughout the year as a result. I am especially proud of a small group of elementary teachers who volunteered to be among the first educators in the state to be featured in a new series of videos produced by the State Education Department that illustrate instructional strategies for teaching the Common Core.

My sincere thanks to teachers, staff and administrators for going above and beyond to maintain a positive learning environment for students despite the pressures brought about during this first year of state testing on the new standards.

Speaking of pressures, principals and administrators did an amazing job preparing for and completing a much more intensive teacher evaluation system this year. The new APPR—yet another example of an unfunded mandate from the state—demands a significant investment of time and effort that school leaders must carry out in addition to their daily responsibilities of managing buildings with 650-700 students each and 150-200 faculty and staff members.

During this time of considerable transition, I commend our teachers and our administrators for never losing sight of our mission to educate every student, every day.

Finally, I wish all the best to our retiring teachers and staff, and hope that our returning students and educators enjoy a safe, relaxing and fun summer vacation! I look forward to welcoming you back in September.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Thanks for your support!

On behalf of the Board of Education and myself, I thank everyone who made the time to participate in the school budget vote and Board of Education election on May 21.

I am grateful for a community that continues to be supportive of our schools despite the challenges presented by rising costs and declining revenues, and the difficult budgetary decisions that we have had to make in recent years.

I thank our staff for their commitment to our students and our educational program. In approving the school budget, the community has shown that they value your hard work and dedication, and support our district, our mission and our unwavering commitment to students.

I thank the Board of Education for developing a balanced budget that despite difficult choices, maintains educational programs for our students.

Thanks to everyone who helped get the “message out,” reminding people to vote and supporting our budget process throughout this past year.

These difficult economic times are likely to continue to challenge our schools and our mission to inspire, challenge and educate every student, every day. Going forward, we must continue to work together to come up with solutions that will meet our district goals and mission and that can also earn the support of our community.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Remember to vote Tuesday

The annual school budget vote and school board election takes place Tuesday, May 21 from noon to 9 p.m.

When the development of the 2013-14 budget began, the Board of Education was faced with the challenge of closing a $1.9 million budget gap, due to continued decreases in state and federal aid and rising contractual and operational costs.

Difficult choices were made in closing the gap, including reductions in staffing, the elimination of after-school clubs and the high school summer school program, the consolidation of modified and junior varsity teams, along with other cost-cutting measures. Despite these cuts, the proposed $23.5 million school budget that the community will vote on Tuesday maintains academic programs for our students.

Every resident of this community 18 and older has a voice in the funding and elected leadership of our school district. Whether you’ve been voting for years or will cast your first ballot on Tuesday, whatever your opinion may be, I encourage you to vote. I only ask that you learn as much about the proposed budget as possible before you head to your polling location. Please visit the district's budget web page, where you can find an extensive Budget Q & A, and read the budget newsletter, which was mailed to residents earlier this month. All provide detailed information about the proposed 2013-14 school budget and its impact on our schools and community.

Voting will take place Tuesday from noon to 9 p.m. at four polling sites throughout the city. Every vote matters!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Thank you teachers!

Around the country, this is National Teacher Appreciation Week (May 6-10), and it is my sincere pleasure to recognize and thank all the educators who not only teach but also care for and serve as role models for students in Watervliet schools.

Our students rely on teachers more than ever. As the real world becomes increasingly more challenging, we must ensure that our students are equipped with the skills they need to be college and career ready, starting in Pre-K and lasting through graduation day. Despite dwindling resources and ever-increasing expectations, our teachers continue to rise to the occasion and bring their “A-game” for every student, every day. 

Every teacher here plays a crucial role in making sure every student receives a quality education not only this week, but every day, every week, all year long.

I observe so many great things happening in classrooms throughout this district on a daily basis, and I am truly honored to work with such dedicated, hard-working and talented professionals. So please join me in honoring our district’s teachers and recognizing the lasting contributions they make in the lives of our students and families.

Thank you teachers!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

State tests: Why your child should take them

The New York State testing cycle will begin on April 16 with students in grades 3-8 taking English language arts (ELA) tests. The state math assessments will follow beginning April 24.

These tests provide crucial information for teachers as they shape and modify curriculum and lesson plans. Data from these tests (along with other measures our district uses, such as the NWEA tests, classroom participation and performance on assignments) allow teachers and administrators to gauge how students are progressing academically, and ultimately prepare all students to graduate college and career ready. The test results help identify which skills and concepts students are having difficulty understanding so that teachers may offer the appropriate instructional interventions needed to help struggling learners improve.

With the integration of the new Common Core Learning Standards this year and the shift to more rigorous state ELA and math tests, it is understandable that some children may experience a certain amount of stress, which can cause concern for parents. 

Recent media reports suggest a backlash from some educators and parents around the state regarding this year’s standardized tests based on the new learning standards, which they say have been implemented without sufficient time for students or educators to fully adjust to the new material that is being taught and which will be tested. Some have recommended that parents opt out of having their children participate in the testing.

Question of compliance
Whether or not you agree with the state’s testing procedures, discouraging students from taking the tests is not the solution. Right now, the state’s accountability system requires that schools have a 95 percent participation rate in the assessments. An article by the New York State Association of School Attorneys (NYSASA) emphasizes that under current law and State Education Department regulations, student opt-outs from state assessments are not permitted, except in certain circumstances involving students with disabilities.

The NYSASA article, which will appear in the next issue of On Board published by the New York State School Boards Association, outlines potential consequences for students and school districts should participation in state testing fall below the required threshold. If a district does not reach the 95 percent participation rate in its schools, it will not make “Adequate Yearly Progress” (AYP), and that may affect a district’s Title I funding. Schools that do not meet AYP could also face intervention consequences.

More importantly, assessment results let parents and teachers know how students are progressing relative to the new, more rigorous Common Core Learning Standards. When students do not participate, building principals and teachers lose an important tool for helping determine the types of additional academic support individual students need to reach expectations at each grade level.

Preparing our students
I want to reassure parents that our district is now and will continue making every effort to ease any anxiety students might be feeling as the testing dates draw near. Our junior high teachers have been offering review classes for students in grades 7 and 8 in advance of the state math tests. Grades K-8 teachers have also shared tips and strategies during recent Literacy and Math Nights at the elementary school for parents to use at home to reinforce their children’s reading, writing and math skills.

Additionally, our teachers have been preparing for the implementation of the Common Core for the past two years through a combination of internal and external professional development. We continue to work with literacy and math coaches from the Capital Region BOCES and offer 40 minutes of professional development in those subject areas each week for our teachers. The instructional materials and textbooks our students use in the classroom are also aligned to the new Common Core.

During a visit to Watervliet Elementary School last month, New York’s Deputy Commissioner of Education Dr. Ken Slentz explained to parents that the State Education Department anticipates results from this year’s new grades 3-8 assessments will drop, in some cases significantly, compared with prior years because of the more rigorous learning standards. “Skill sets have become more complex and expectations have increased,” Dr. Slentz said, “this does not mean that kids are learning less or teachers are not teaching.” It is important that we all keep this in mind when test scores are released next year.

In the meantime, I ask that you continue to support your children’s participation in the state assessments this year and every year that it is required by the state.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Students take a stand for our schools

On Thursday, Feb. 28, a group of about 30 high school students—consisting mostly of 10th and 11th graders—teachers and WTA co-presidents Scott Emerson and Peter Strand, teaching assistant Jeff DiPaolo, Board President Mark Scully and I visited the State Capitol.
This field trip was far more than a tour of the Capitol—a building rich with history and amazing architecture that is worth a visit if you haven’t been there in recent years—it was a unique educational opportunity that offered students a personal, hands-on experience with democracy.
Throughout the day, students met with and spoke to Watervliet’s elected officials Senator Neil Breslin and Assemblyman John McDonald, and other legislators including Assemblyman Phil Steck and the senate and assembly education committee chairpersons, Sen. John Flanagan and a representative of Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan.
I could not be more proud of the way the students conducted themselves and represented our school district and the city. They did an incredible job of articulating their thoughts about the education they are receiving in our schools, and spoke politely and sincerely when sharing their concerns about the significant impact proposed school budget cuts will have on them and their peers.
One of the most productive meetings of the day was with Sen. Flanagan who chairs the NYS Senate Education Committee. He welcomed the students, asked them many questions and listened intently as they voiced their concerns about the potential elimination of Advanced Placement courses and extracurricular opportunities next year. Students discussed the effect this loss will have when applying to college and competing with other students locally and across the state whose transcripts are more diverse and rich because their schools have not had to make such deep cuts. Speaking directly to the students, Sen. Flanagan promised that he and his colleagues in the Legislature would make every effort during state budget negotiations to redirect as much funding as possible back to school districts to help ease the fiscal pressures and reverse the need for reductions in programs and services.
I hope that students learned from this experience that legislators are interested in hearing directly from their constituents—even the younger voices that cannot yet vote—and that it is important to voice your opinions and stand up for what you believe in.
I invite everyone in the community—parents, staff, teachers, students, grandparents and residents—to do the same: write, call, e-mail or even meet with our elected officials and advocate for Watervliet City schools, especially if you are concerned about the academic programs, extracurricular opportunities and support services that are in jeopardy next year.
Next week, the WES PTA is sponsoring a letter-writing event for parents during their meeting on Tuesday, March 5 at 6:30 p.m. in the elementary school cafeteria. The PTA will have materials to make it as easy as possible for you to show your support for our schools.
Other upcoming events that you can attend to learn more about the district’s fiscal challenges and provide feedback that will help us make important decisions as we develop the 2013-14 school budget include:
  • Tuesday, March 12, Board of Education Meeting, 7 p.m.  
  • Wednesday, March 27, Special Board of Education Meeting/Public Budget Workshop, 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, April 9, WES PTA Meeting, Budget Presentation/Workshop, 6:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 13, Budget Breakfast, 10 a.m. (light breakfast fare courtesy of the Gourmet Foods Class)
Also, remember to check the district website’s budget section for the latest news and information.

We all want what is best for our students and must work together to find solutions to the significant challenges we are facing. Please be an advocate for our schools and for public education in an effort to ensure a quality education for every student every day.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Urgent education reform absent from State of the State

Governor Andrew Cuomo gave his State of the State address last week and is expected to present his Executive Budget early next week.

In his State of the State, the governor made “jobs and education” a focal point of his blueprint for economic development and recovery in the state. He also spoke about a number of worthwhile education reforms for New York (one of which was early childhood education that I’m proud to say our district already provides with our UPK program). The governor spent roughly 7 minutes of an hour-plus speech outlining recommendations for improving K-12 education in the state, but interestingly, gave little indication as to how these many reforms would be funded.

What is even more concerning is the lack of attention Gov. Cuomo has paid to another significant and more pressing reform: fixing the state’s flawed state aid formulas that result in inequitable distribution of funding to the small city schools and rural districts that need it most.  

A high quality education is important to our state’s prosperity, our country’s future—but equally as important, it is vital for the success of the children in this district and across the state. As superintendent of the Watervliet City School District, my priority remains our district’s ability to provide a high quality educational programs that will help students achieve their goals—whether it be attaining higher education, pursuing a career path or both. 

Given the state’s deficit and the anemic economic recovery, I recognize that state leaders are in no position to offer schools more in the way of funding, but they can and should change the formulas to fix the glaring inequities in the allocation of state aid. Our state leaders must also tackle the issue of unfunded mandates that are crippling our ability in Watervliet—and in many other school districts across the state—to preserve the academic programs students need in order to be college and career ready upon graduation.

If these issues go unresolved, our district and others will continue to move closer to insolvency. If you value education as I do, I strongly encourage you to help advocate for our schools. Watervliet has assembled a stakeholder team and will join with 46 other Capital Region school districts for a regional advocacy event featuring Dr. Rick Timbs of the Statewide School Finance Consortium, to learn about the severity of the fiscal crisis that is looming for schools throughout our area and what we, as a community, can do to have our voices heard and advocate for solutions. The forum, 'Your Schools in Fiscal Peril - Running Out of Time & Options,' will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 31 at Columbia High School in East Greenbush. I encourage you to call my office at 629-3201 if you are interested in participating in the Jan. 31 event or just want more information about how you can help advocate for education and our schools.

The entire WCSD staff, Board of Education and I will continue to fight to preserve programs and people that will afford our students the top-notch education they are entitled to. We will advocate for every student, every day.