by Alex Brooks
The Hoosick Falls School District has been informed that under the Governor’s recently released budget, State operating aid for the District would go up by about $200,000. This is about 1% of the District’s total budget. It would be an increase in State operating aid of a little over 2%. If the District’s annual health insurance cost were to increase by 5%, that would eat up all of this proposed State aid increase. In fact, health insurance costs have usually gone up by more than 5% annually.
[private]It is still early in the budget process, and there are many more twists and turns to come.
Superintendent Facin talked about the Race To the Top (RTTT) money that was awarded to New York State. The original grant was $700 million Statewide, but the State Education Department took half of that to create a data system to store and manipulate data from school districts all across the State. This data system is “nowhere to be found,” according to Facin. Hoosick Falls will be getting a total of $52,900 over four years from the Race to the Top grant. This sum is so small that Facin was wondering if the paperwork and extra requirements that come with it are worth the money. He said, “This program may be more work than the money we get will pay for. It might make sense to opt out of the program as many other districts are doing.” Facin noted that the State is under fire from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan for not implementing teacher evaluation agreements quickly enough, as promised in the RTTT application. Facin said, “We are one of only a handful of districts that have a signed APPR (teacher evaluation) agreement.”
Apparently there was an agreement between the State Education Department and the State-wide teachers union, NYSUT, on a framework for an evaluation system, but it fell apart, and they are having an extended argument about it. Meanwhile, Cuomo is threatening to withhold funds from Districts that don’t implement a teacher evaluation system, and Arne Duncan is threatening to withhold some of the Race to the Top Funds from New York State if the pace of implementation doesn’t improve. In Cuomo’s budget address, he said with exasperation, “The federal government wants their money back!”
Facin said he was excited about a teacher training day scheduled for January 30. He said they will be doing some Core Curriculum mapping with Dr. Crowder and presentations on the Danielson rubric, which is the basis for the teacher evaluation system being implemented at HFCS.
National Board Certification
There was a presentation by Colleen McDonald, a teacher in the Cambridge District who achieved National Board Certification over ten years ago. She is now leading a support group for five teachers in the Hoosick Falls District who are trying to get National Board certification.
The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards is an independent non-profit organization organized in 1987 which recognizes and rewards accomplished teachers. Getting this elite certification is a very lengthy process which can take up to three years of diligent effort. Many try and do not achieve it. There are only about 250 teachers in the Capital District who hold this certification.
The Board heard music performances by two students who played in the NYS School Music Association All-State Festival. These were Allison Philpott and Logan Brogue. They also watched a presentation by art teacher Jonathan Millman showing artwork by HFCS students that he has posted on a national children’s art web site called Artsonia. Many of the artworks shown were very accomplished, and he talked about the ways that the exposure offered by the website excited the students about their art. Through the website they can talk to other student artists across the country and be inspired by the work of students in other states.
During the course of the meeting, the Board heard about two community service projects that students at HFCS were involved in. One was restoring a revolutionary war era cemetery in Salem, and the other was raising money for the Ugandan water project, which builds water systems for African villages.
Non-Resident Tuition Students
The Board had its first reading of a policy to allow students from outside the District to attend HFCS on a tuition basis. Don Skott had some reservations about the idea because the tuition for a 7-12 regular education student, as figured by a State formula, would be about $6,700, but the full cost per student is over $15,000 per year. He pointed out that if the District accepted a lot of students at that tuition and hired extra teachers to accommodate them, it could be a losing proposition for the District.
Facin responded that the idea is not to make a bigger school but to accept outside students only when we have programming that has extra capacity.
Business Manager Pam Hatfield said the District builds its staffing based on enrollment every year and tuition paying students would be added afterwards where there is room. There would be no increase in faculty or staff to cover tuition students. On that limited basis, Skott seemed to agree it would be a good thing.
After last month’s decision to allow HFCS students to watch sports events free, Don Skott asked if they should consider making all sports events free. Superintendent Facin did some research and came back to the Board with information. The District takes in about $10,000 per year by charging for sports events and pays about $2,000 of that to ticket-takers, so overall it makes about $8,000 per year. The Board felt that having spectators involved with school sports, and the goodwill that would come from offering free admission, might be worth $8,000 to the District, and they voted unanimously to make all sports events held at the school free of admission charges.
The meeting began with Town Historian and former HFCS Superintendent Phil Leonard giving a presentation commemorating the District’s 50 years in the current school building.
Hoosick originally had 23 school districts, and 20 of them (three went to other districts) voted to centralize into one district in 1956, by a 2 to 1 majority. Leonard came in as Superintendent in 1957. He originally worked at the Walter A. Wood School in downtown Hoosick Falls, but it was crowded, and they were doing double sessions. They considered quite a few locations for a new, larger school for the District, but when a 43 acre parcel from the Wysocki farm was offered for $7,300, he felt that was the best deal, and the voters approved it.
The new school was finished by the end of 1961. The Elementary School moved in in September 1961 and the High School in December of 1961.
Phil offered many amusing anecdotes, and his lively presentation was much appreciated by all those on hand.[/private]
by Alex Brooks